Motorbike Tour of the Flinders Ranges, South Australia

I did this ride solo on my BMW R1200 GS motorbike. I’ve owned it since new (2008). The bike had its 230,000km routine service just before this ride. The engine is original and has never been overhauled. It performs as it did when new. But a thorough wash and polish no longer brings it up like new.

I rode daily for nine days and covered 3,385kms. For perspective, this is 348kms more than the road distance from Adelaide to Darwin.

The first day was my longest, when I rode 699kms from Apollo Bay to Murray Bridge in South Australia.

I started and finished at Apollo Bay on the west coast of Victoria.

My route was:

Apollo Bay – Ararat – Stawell – Horsham – Bordertown – Murray Bridge – Clare – Orroroo – Hawker – Blinman – Parachilna – Copley – Arkaroola Village – Leigh Creek – Hawker – Orroroo – Peterborough – Burra – Birdwood – Woodside – Strathalbyn – Victor Harbor (two nights) – Milang – Wellington (ferry crossing of the Murray River) – Keith – Naracoorte – Apsley – Naracoorte – Mount Gambier – Nelson – Portland – Warrnambool – Peterborough – Port Campbell – Apollo Bay (bold indicates overnight stay)

I arrived back in Apollo Bay an hour or so before sunset on Friday 23 April 2021.

The rich rolling plains of the Victorian western district. The Grampians are visible on the horizon. I rode to the Flinders on a pretty direct track, the first day taking me through Horsham and Bordertown to Murray Bridge. From there I headed north to Hawker and the Flinders Ranges.
Curious detour from the highway west of Horsham via some dirt roads, and some dirt that was barely even a road.

Murray Bridge to Blinman

I left Murray Bridge before dawn, heading north to Hawker and the Flinders Ranges. Cloud almost prevented me seeing the sunrise.
My route took me through the Adelaide hills well east of suburban Adelaide. There was low cloud and some fog over the higher hills. Reminders of Hans Heysen’s paintings were around every corner.
This layer of stratus over the Adelaide hills was very thin. Had I been in a light aircraft I could’ve overflown this area in clear blue skies at 1000′ feet or so above terrain.
An iconic sight in rural South Australia. This sandstone ruin was well north of Adelaide, not far south of Hawker. A couple of paddocks on from this location there was a substantial but temporary settlement (buildings, containers, vehicles etc) established in a stubble paddock on gently rolling country. Apparently it was the accommodation for crews from the BBC and Stan while they were making a film in the area. On my return trip the paddock was empty again.
Heading north from Hawker into the northern Flinders Ranges. Not in the Otway Ranges any more.
Completely overcast skies are not the norm in this area between Hawker and Wilpena Pound. But there were flash floods here in January this year. This cloud was brought about by a trough passing over the lower part of the state.
Looking south from higher country north of Wilpena Pound. Brief but heavy localised rainshowers fell late in the afternoon.
Blinman, the highest town in South Australia. My GS was checked out by the well known corrugated iron kangaroo on duty in front of the bakery.
The bathroom basin in the Blinman motel. The red sign says: “Do not drink ther (sic) water. Use the box water provided.”
The bore water from the taps was hard but I’ve showered in worse bore water in other parts of rural South Australia.
Behind the motel were a couple of rounded hilltops which were unexceptional until the final moments of the sunset when a narrow gap in the clouds suddenly and fleetingly turned them molten red.
Behind the Blinman motel.
L: Before dawn. R: Same scene at sunset
(Move the circular slider left and right to see the two pictures separately)
Behind the Blinman motel.
L: Before dawn. R: Same scene at sunset

Blinman to Copley via Parachilna Gorge

I left Blinman in still cold air and low light before sunrise. At this point the sunlight had reached the nearby hilltops but was not yet warming my back.
Then suddenly, as if a switch had been flicked, the sun was warming my back. Absolutely everything had a long shadow, even the stones on the road.
About to start my descent through Parachilna Gorge to the dry flatlands to the west. I saw some very healthy wild goats climbing rocks beside this road, including a robust looking shiny black billy goat, with white markings and big horns. There were a few other goats and kids with him. Wild goats seem to have road sense – I have seen plenty on previous rides and have never had one bolt across the road in front of me. Kangaroos, wallabies, emus, cattle and sheep on the other hand seem to lack road sense. On this trip I had moments with all of these creatures except cattle, and one moment with a deer, when I had to brake or steer to reduce risk. None of these were near misses though. The only near miss was with a rabbit sitting still in the middle of the road. My crash bar must have passed his ears with only mms to spare.
As I descended through Parachilna Gorge, I kept finding chilly gullies still in the shade. There were many creek bed crossings, both smaller and larger than this one.
The sun eventually catching up with me as I rode west following the gorge down to the flat country. (In the previous similar photo, the sun was not quite over the ridge).
These magnificent gum trees growing in the creek beds are a sight to see and a mystery. These creeks become deep raging torrents when flooded. Assuming such events are at least annual, how does a young gum tree sapling hold its position in the rocky and sandy soil of the creek beds when water and sizeable natural debris are flooding over it for days or longer?
It is not difficult to see how established gum trees such as this one are secure against all that floodwater can throw at it.
The road between the western edge of Parchilna gorge and the settlement of Parachilna to the west. The curves ended very abruptly. The land is flat like this all the way to Lake Torrens out to the west.

Copley to Arkaroola

Encouraging sign at the start of the dirt as I headed east from Copley.
Off the flatlands to the west of the Flinders, and eastward into the hills and gorges. This part of the road was in great condition.
Not high on the list of things I hoped to see as I rode on this remote dirt road deep in the northern Flinders Ranges en route to Arkaroola.
The triangular red flashing warning light directly under the tacho together with the symbol beside the N in the larger display indicates that the flashing tyre pressure (27 in this case) is below permitted tolerance. The flashing 27 is the reading from the rear tyre internal pressure sensor. It should have been at 42psi, but the air escaped relatively quickly. I had until about 20psi to keep riding slowly to find a suitable spot to fix the tyre. The early warning was most useful for this reason. 36psi is the correct pressure in the front tyre.
The culprit – fencing wire. Other punctures I have had over the years have been harder to find.
Painless extraction.
Perfect location for roadside repairs. Only one vehicle went past just after I parked here. It was going at a fair speed with a lot of dust. I doubt the driver saw me. Didn’t see another vehicle between then and my arrival at Arkaroola.
While I had ridden from Apollo Bay to the site of the puncture with my tyre pressures 36 front and 42 rear (psi), after fixing the puncture I decided to lower them both to 25psi. This lower pressure gives far better traction and control on gravel. At 36 and 42 on gravel roads such as these the bike slides around quite a bit. At 25psi front and back it is much more stable and feels as though it has a much more solid grip on the road. I hadn’t reduced the pressure earlier as the road was in reasonable condition and I didn’t consider it necessary. Even though the bike was moving around a bit it was tolerable and safe. But having done it, the feeling of stability and control was substantially increased. I should have done it on leaving the bitumen as I usually do. My total distance on dirt roads on the entire trip was around 300kms.

The red marker shows the exact location of my roadside puncture repairs. The Spot satellite messenger (the orange device on the left) created this location marker on a satellite image of the area.

On the eastern side of the northern Flinders Ranges, heading out of the hilly gorge country into gently undulating country.
Arkaroola reception building.
Sunset at Arkaroola.
It had been a dusty day. (Photo taken inside my motel room at Arkaroola).
This was taken only a short walk from my motel room at Arkaroola just after the moon had set. The air is wonderfully clear this far inland in good weather. I carted my tripod on the back of the motorbike all this way to allow me to take a few photos such as these in the beautifully clear night air in the ranges surrounded by desert. I’m glad I did.
This image and the following shots of the Milky Way were taken a km or so down the exit track from Arkaroola on the eastern side the settlement. I wanted to get completely away from any artificial lighting. I didn’t have to walk far to achieve this.

Arkaroola to Peterborough via Copley

I headed south from Arkaroola parallel to this mountain range on my left.
Still heading south.
The mighty GS beneath this solitary overachieving tree (at least in this neighbourhood) as I turned west to ride through the gorge country to Copley.
That left turn ahead leads down to one of many dry creek beds full of stones. The technique which seemed to give the best ride through these stone filled creek beds was to stand on the pegs, put my weight back a bit and give it a squirt of power through the loose stones. The bike would wriggle around a bit (yaw left and right for any pilots reading this) in the gravel, but with the power on and the front wheel slightly unweighted it would track straight to the more stable dirt road on the other side.
Once I returned to Copley, I was on the bitumen heading south to Hawker. I dropped in to a garage at Leigh Creek just south of Copley and restored the tyres to highway pressures (36 and 42psi front and back respectively). The temporary plug that fixed the puncture was holding well. It is said that a plug repair is only good to get you to the nearest garage or tyre supplied. I decided to see how far I could get with the repaired tyre. That highway intersects with this dirt road going off to the left (the east). This is the road to Parachilna Gorge and Blinman. The dip in the range of mountains where the gorge has carved its path can be seen in this photo.
I spent a night in a motel at Peterborough on my way to Victor Harbor. Believe it or not, when I asked at reception about parking options for the bike I was told to put it on the path right outside my door. My sort of motel.

Peterborough to Victor Harbor and the Fleurieu Peninsula

Heading south from Peterborough through the mid north of the Flinders Ranges, I was looking for some sandstone ruins on the right side of the highway so I could take a photo of it well lit by the early morning sun shining from behind me. Had to settle for what was on offer.
Heading south through the Adelaide hills en route to Victor Harbor. There were many similarly impressive avenues of gum trees.

My hosts for two nights, Barb and Colin Francis, who provided me with luxury accommodation and world class hospitality at their home in Victor Harbor. Barb and Col and Liz and I have done some extended motorbike riding together in the Victorian high country. We know them from our days in Port Lincoln in the late 1970s, when Liz nursed at the local hospital with Barb. Col owns a couple of BMW motorbikes, among numerous other vehicles. His tourer is the BMW R1200 RT. Col and I did a relaxing tour of the SW Fleurieu Peninsula on the bikes shown, including a visit to Cape Jervis.

I should also mention the other Francis family member in the photo on the left. Barb is holding Rose (pronounced as in the drink, not the flower) the affable chook. Rose and her companions live in the lap of luxury in quarters (with more than adequate indoor and outdoor living and recreation areas) built by Barb and Colin. They produce eggs (which I had for breakfast and which were delicious), and provide company of sorts. But on balance, I think these chooks came out clear winners in the deal with their life of leisure and luxury fully catered for in return for a few eggs a day which I’m guessing they were going to lay anyway. I suppose there is also the occasional less than onerous social obligation such as this photo shoot, but I don’t think that changes my assessment. As the photo shows, enthusiastic and intelligent social engagement and involvement is neither required nor provided.

Colin took me on this road less travelled on our tour of the lower Fleurieu Peninsula (see the gallery of three photos immediately following), which included the track with this vista of Cape Jervis. The land on the horizon is Kangaroo Island and the water in between is Backstairs passage.

While in Victor Harbour, my puncture repair eventually started to leak. 700kms on the repaired tyre was quite acceptable. I had a new tyre fitted in Victor Harbour.

Fleurieu Peninsula to Apsley, Victoria

Crossing the Murray River at Wellington.

At next to no notice I contacted my friend Ian to see if he was on a flying mission (a regular occurrence) or, improbably as I thought, on his farm east of Naracoorte. Turns out he was home and he kindly extended great hospitality for an overnight on the farm. Ian’s claims to fame beyond aviation and photography are too numerous to mention. But I will note two: (1) at the age of 24 he rode a Honda 50 motorcycle (50cc and top speed less than 40kph) from Adelaide to Darwin in four 15.5 hour days plus a final 15 hour day; and (2), there is cave on the Nullarbor Plain between the head of the Bight and the SA/WA border, accessible only by abseiling down from a high sheer cliff to its entrance which faces the Southern Ocean. This cave is called IOJ cave, named after Ian in honour of his voluntary services with his aircraft to exploration and mapping of cave locations in the cliffs which are visible only from sea between the head of the Bight and Eucla. This involved flying the length of that stretch of coast over the sea and below cliff top level, with high tech cameras recording the sights and other data as they flew. Ian has abseiled off the cliffs directly above the cave bearing his name, and entered the cave with the experts who were exploring, surveying and mapping the caves and tunnels penetrating inland from the cliff under the flat plains above. He is the only friend I have with a cave on the Nullarbor Plains named after him.

P.S. The Stuart Highway which connects Adelaide and Darwin was not fully sealed until February 1987. Ian’s epic ride on the Honda 50 was well before then.

This is Ian’s much loved C210 which he uses for his aerial photography business which regularly takes him to all parts of Australia. The original connection I made with Ian was through a flying instructor from the Eyre Peninsula who taught Ian to fly, and who also did all my training for my commercial pilot licence. His name was Barry Firth. He was a very good friend and flying mentor to both of us. Sadly he died 10 years ago.
The 800m (or so) private airstrip on the farm.
I do like an open fire, and I have one at Apollo Bay. But the thought of firewood in this quantity and of this quality is beyond my wildest dreams. Firewood is in plentiful supply on this farm.

There is an intermittent creek, dry when I was there, which meanders through a paddock beside the airstrip paddock. It supports an exotic array of beautiful gum trees of which these are only a small sample.

Apsley to Nelson via Piccaninnie Ponds

While South Australia is the driest state on the driest continent on earth, the south east of the state never got that memo. It seems to have more than adequate rainfall, great soil and things seem to grow very well here. Towns like Naracoorte and Mount Gambier are quite unlike Blinman and Copley.
Piccaninnie Ponds. This unprepossessing looking body of fresh water, not far from large coastal dunes and the Southern Ocean, is quite remarkable. I was drawn to it solely because of that fact, even though I had no plans to swim or snorkel here. Below the surface of this ‘pond’ is a limestone sinkhole with caverns and tunnels that extend to depths of over 130 feet, with water visibility in excess of 100 feet. I wonder how long the early settlers here looked at this little coastal pond before realising what was beneath the surface?
It is a good principle of motorcycling not to ride your motorbike up every interesting looking little track. I believe this narrow track leading to the ocean but consisting entirely of sand would have ended in tears, a lot of sweating and possibly pulled muscles. Damage to the bike would be highly unlikely though.
The Glenelg River mouth at Nelson (not far from the S.A. border).

The Spot Satellite Messenger showing three greens, which indicates that my message identifying my location for the night has been sent to my family. They each receive an email with information including a satellite photo showing my position. The blue dot with the red marker is where the motorbike was in the picture on the left when I activated the Spot device. The Spot Messenger will work anywhere on the face of the earth. It uses satellites, not telephone networks.

Narrow road between Nelson and the river mouth. I stayed too long enjoying the sunset over the estuary. This track had a virtual guard of honour of wallabies, all on duty for the night shift as I rode back into town. The GS did not leave the factory with headlights of this quality. In fact the headlights it was delivered with when new, could probably have been used as safe lights in a darkroom during photo processing. But thanks to brother Noel, my bike now sports a proper set of driving lights as shown.
After riding around in the rain and dark near Nelson, I headed straight to the only pub in town for a warm up and a meal, before going to the Pinehaven motel and cottage. The publican and locals were very welcoming. I was even offered access to a shed in which to park my bike while I had a meal. But it seemed pointless for it to be undercover for 60 minutes out of 9 days (plus of course the one night at Peterborough when it was under a verandah). So I parked it in the rain on the footpath in front of the pub. The locals were either in the restaurant eating, or at the bar sorting out their footy tips and engaging in loud and convivial Friday night banter. I headed for the fire to dry off my riding jacket, and to eat some delicious local seafood. A welcome respite after a cold (and sometimes wet) day’s riding.
Back in totally familiar territory on the Victorian west coast. This is Boat Bay a few kms west of Peterborough. I did a very memorable swim here on 14 March 2015. My account of that swim is in an earlier post on this blog, titled: ‘Two Ocean Swims West of Cape Otway.’ Suffice to say that conditions were nothing like this on the occasion of that swim, when we swam most of the way to the most seaward stack in the picture.

Nelson to Apollo Bay

Port Campbell for lunch at ‘Forage on the Foreshore’. This was the view I had as I ate. There was a solid swell blown out by strong onshore winds. Only 97kms to run to Apollo Bay.
Great food at this restaurant. As usual, I had their delicious French toast, comprising the following (I quote from the menu even though I don’t understand each and every word):
Thirty-Two 80 Specialty Bakery Japanese milk loaf, caramelised bananas, Istra bacon, Schulz’s Organic Dairy quark cheese, Otway Walnuts
A casual roadside stop on a side track between Lavers Hill and Apollo Bay. The Otway Ranges has very high rainfall and does its main feature, the cool temperate rainforest, very well. Grass like this just happens and appears without bidding or effort.
Just out of idle curiosity, I wonder if these sheep in their red dusty paddock (which I photographed in the mid north of the Flinders Ranges a few days earlier) would, if shown the previous photo, believe that grass such as this even exists.
The winding curves of the Great Ocean Road through the cool temperate rainforests of the Otway Ranges, between Lavers Hill and the Johanna beach turnoff.
Back in familiar territory in the Aire River valley, 25kms or so from Apollo Bay. The bridge over the Aire River is just a dozen steps behind the bike.
I spend quite a bit of time in Apollo Bay watching weather and swell forecasts to ensure I don’t miss out on being present on the relevant dune, point or clifftop to take photos of significant swell events. It turns out that while I was enjoying day 9 of my ride, the biggest swell of the year to date hit the entire west coast. From all reports it was bigger in the morning than the afternoon when I returned. The above wave was breaking over Little Henty Reef off Hayley Point at Marengo, just south of Apollo Bay.
The surf was blown out along the beaches I could see while riding home. But apparently at Bells Beach it was memorable and rideable – well, sort of. It was reliably reported to me (first hand) that at Bells there were about 200 spectators on the cliffs at Bells and 5 surfers in the water. One young fellow ended up in hospital (broken jaw) after a big Bells wipeout on a 9′ 4″ long board connected to his ankle by a leg rope. He was rescued by jet ski, and taken a few kms east to a sheltered beach at Torquay from where he was taken to hospital by ambulance. He’ll be OK. Gutsy effort surfing at Bells at all that day. Even gutsier on a long board, and next level hanging five on these massive faces prior to the wipeout that injured him. I have seen the video of his hang five rides.
This photo and the one above it were taken just before sunset. It was generally overcast but a few sunset rays got through to put a hint of pink on the cumulus clouds over this part of Bass Strait.
This shot was taken just after the sun had set and the light was seriously dropping. Great to know that I don’t need a 3,000+km ride to see sights like this.
This was an unexpected and very fitting coda to a great ride.

Postscript

During my motorbike ride, this blog ticked over its ten thousandth visitor. WordPress defines the ‘visitors’ metric as “the number of unique users that have visited the site.” It defines the ‘views’ metric as, “when a visitor loads or reloads a page.”

This blog commenced with my first post on 24 June 2017. I have published 135 posts in total. The blog currently has 139 followers. A follower is someone who receives notice (by email or on their WordPress reader) when I publish a new post. Being an email follower is the simplest means of receiving such notice. Instructions on doing this are on the top of the right hand column of each post, when viewed on a laptop or larger screen device. It simply requires that you enter your email address in the space provided and then press ‘follow’.You will then receive an email with details of your subscription (it’s free) and an unsubscribe link.

While the majority of visitors are from Australia, overall since the blog commenced, it has been viewed by visitors from 84 different countries.

The most viewed post by a good margin (published on 27 August 2019), is “A Swim and a Walk at Cradle Mountain.” It has been the most viewed of any blog post since the blog commenced (572 views to date, and counting), and for the last year, the last quarter, the last 30 days and the last 7 days. The link to this post is:

A Swim and a Walk at Cradle Mountain

I have no explanation for the apparent popularity of this particular post.

My blog remains totally uncommercial and entirely uninfluential. I enjoy sharing some of my photos and some of my experiences and observations. I am pleased there are some out there who apparently enjoy viewing and reading the random content on my posts. I always welcome comments – statistics as to readers are so dry.

High Country Ride Autumn 2019

8 blokes, 8 bikes, not enough degrees Celsius, 2 days, one night and 1000kms. This is the essence of the plan we had as the sun rose on Saturday 30 March 2019.

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We met at first light and departed from Preston right on sunrise. The air was reasonably warm as the cold front to the west had not yet crossed our part of the state.

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7 bikes and riders, consisting of two hired BMWs (an F750GS and an R1200GS), a Yamaha Tenere, a Triumph Tiger,  a BMW R1200RT, another BMW R1200GS and a Kawasaki Versys. Wide range of road riding experience in the group.

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Most of this crew choose mostly to ride either alone, or with one other carefully selected person. It was an interesting experiment to have such a crew ride as a group of 8.

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We left before this frontal system reached Melbourne, and it caught up with us later in the afternoon as we approached Bright. The ride over Mt Hotham to Omeo was in the conditions just behind the front. It was a reasonably strong system of two lows in close succession, with the isobars tightening up as it progressed across the state. The strong, cold and moist onshore winds (from the west then south west) produced a lot of rain, and were forecast to produce snow above 1000m in the high country.

But first, the riders.

The group of 8 wasn’t complete until Bright, where Gilbert (a resident of Bright) joined us.

If there is a common element in this crew, I would say it is that they are all great company.

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Noel – acknowledged master of the motorbike, both mechanically and as a rider. A privilege to ride with him. I have done most of my long trips with Noel. I continue to learn a lot from him. He is a gun.  After the 1000kms at the weekend, on the Wednesday following Noel climbed aboard his BMW R1200RT and departed Melbourne at first light. His route? Melbourne to Mansfield to Whitfield to Myrtleford to Bright to Mt Hotham (where it was dry, sunny and 11C) to Mitta Mitta to Tallangatta to Corryong, where his trip ended not long before dark.  800kms on that particular day. A lot of curves, a lot of riding. Hard core effort.

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Gilbo. Long time resident of Bright, been riding (and flying various things) for years.

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Mike, getting off his Triumph Tiger. Got his learner plate when I did, and we rode a lot together building up initial experience on identical Honda VTR 250s. In 2010 Mike did the first day of my ride around Australia with me (Melbourne to Orbost).

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Hambo was riding on a hire bike. He has been on a few short road trips with Noel and me.  Some paddock experience on unregistered motorbikes as a boy.

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Darren, on a hired BMW R1200GS. A lot of off-road experience including competing on a trials bike, but no real road riding experience. Had never ridden a BMW R1200GS before picking up his hire bike on Friday afternoon.

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Brendan. Very experienced rider (road and off-road), and has owned quite a few bikes. His current bike, the Yamaha Tenere, is a favourite I am guessing. In 2010 Brendan did the first couple of days of my ride around Australia with me, and we parted ways in Nowra NSW.

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Andrew – commercial pilot, Kawasaki Versys owner and drone flyer. He has the best mentor in the business in Noel (his father).  He is rapidly building up experience on this his second motorbike.

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The first lesson I learned about riding in a large group is that there are more stops and progress is much slower. The route we took to Bright (via Yea, Mansfield, Whitfield, Oxley and Myrtleford) can be done in 3 hours or so. We took 7.5 hours (!), but enjoyed every one of them.  We had coffee stops at Yea, Mansfield and Whitfield! This photo was just before the T intersection in Whitfield, near the pub. We had just ridden through 65 kms of mostly curves from Mansfield. There was some fog, and quite a few damp patches on the road. A sign of things to come as it turned out.

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Parked at Whitfield, L to R: BMW (Noel), BMW (Darren), BMW (me), Kawasaki (Andrew), Yamaha (Brendan), BMW (Hamish) and Triumph (Mike).

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Beside the Whitfield Cafe, a popular watering hole with motorcyclists and others.

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8 bikes fitted in Gilbo’s garage at Bright, out of the rain. There was a fair bit of rain falling by this stage of the day. We checked on conditions ahead, and were told there had been 43mm of rain in Omeo (and counting) and that it had been snowing all day on Hotham. The BoM rain radar showed lines of heavy showers approaching Bright from the west. Accordingly, after a brief chat we cancelled our booked Omeo accommodation while in Bright (Margie, the proprietor of the Omeo Motel having very kindly left a message on my phone that we could cancel if we wished, without charge, given the conditions, and her wish that all stay safe). That was a generous gesture. But we then decided to have a look at the Mt Hotham road by riding up it until we struck either dense fog, too much rain to ride in, wind too strong to continue safely, unrideable amounts of snow on the road, or black ice.  While I had some faint hope that conditions might not be as unrideable as they sounded, I was entirely comfortable with the decision to cancel the Omeo accommodation. I expected not to get too far up Mt Hotham, and to return to spend the night in either Bright or Mount Beauty.

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We continued our way cautiously up the mountain on wet roads, with rain at times, fog at times, and a constantly dropping temperature.  This photo was taken at a roadside parking area just after we encountered the first hint of falling snow, not too many kms from the summit. The process reminded me of nibbling away at bad weather in a light aircraft on a VFR flight – no harm in having a look so long as the plan is to do a 180 in plenty of time without pushing your luck. A series of decisions is required as conditions permit progress through or around bad weather, until they don’t, at which point you divert, land nearby or turn around and go back home. Sometimes you can fly a long way in bad weather where visibility at any point is only a few miles in front of the aircraft. In simplified form (less variables), this was our ride up Hotham, at no point feeling confident of getting much beyond the next few curves. Despite all the dire forecasts however, conditions did not become unrideable. But this was not confirmed until we actually reached the village at the summit.

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At this stop I was increasingly confident that we had a reasonable chance of getting over Mt Hotham, and proceeding on to Omeo (hoping we could re-book our accommodation if that occurred). I checked with each rider to ensure nobody was hypothermic and that continuing on was acceptable to all. It was. Everyone denied being cold, but I later discovered that some were in fact already suffering a bit in this department.  Compare the smiling face of  Andrew (heated jacked, ample jacket and liners, heated handgrips) with the face of Hambo (summer jacket with plastic waterproof liner, heated handgrips, generally underdressed). Hamish was let down by the hirer in this regard, who in my view should never have sent him in off in this hire jacket given the cold snap that the state was experiencing. I later discovered that Darren had very cold hands and feet, and that Gilbo’s gloves weren’t quite doing the job for his hand either.

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Success! The summit car park on top of Mt Hotham. Light snow was falling, it was windy and wet, but there was no black ice on the road. The air temperature at the summit car park according to my motorbike instruments was -0.5C. Noel said there was a lit sign on a building in the village showing -3C. The wind chill on any view was -7C or colder. When the motorbikes were moving, the wind chill would’ve been much colder again.

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My BMW R1200GS in the summit car park area. Snow was freezing on impact and sticking to my windshield and visor.  I had to continually wipe ice of my visor.

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I was wearing thermals and a T shirt under my jacket (which had a quilted liner). But I had not put my heated jacket on when we left Bright (probably reflecting my view that while getting over the mountain was not necessarily impossible, it was unlikely). My gloves (and heated handgrips), legs and feet were all warm, dry and comfortable. Just before this stop (between the summit and Dinner Plain), I felt a couple of involuntary body shivers that indicated I was perhaps a bit colder than I felt. I figured it was time to don the heated jacket. The stop shown above and below was not far north of Dinner Plain, and I checked if all were happy to check out whether the pub there was open. There were no objections.

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Hambo on the left taking some advice from Noel. A good thing to do.

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About to head off to Dinner Plain, hopefully to find an open and warm pub, or at worst, an alcove or two out of the wind and snow in which to warm up and rug up a bit more.

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The open sign on the door was most welcome. Inside, the central heating was doing its job, as were the two adjacent roaring open fires in large stone fireplaces. This was a very timely and most welcome stop. I rang the Omeo Motel from here and was able to re-book our cancelled accommodation. We had a few refreshments, dried off and warmed up a bit, then continued on our way as last light was approaching fast. By my calculation, 3:30pm was the latest time we could leave Bright to make Omeo before last light, with a bit of an allowance thrown in for unplanned stops or delays. We rode out of Bright at 3:30pm.

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The ride up the last couple of kms to the summit was in thick cloud and wind, with snow flurries eddying in all directions around the road, including some blowing up from the drop-off to our left beyond the orange snow poles. There was a minor sense of adventure to the extent that successful passage to the summit and beyond was still not guaranteed. But having reached the summit, and ridden through light falling snow and strong winds until a km or two past Dinner Plains, our success was reinforced and brought with it a great sense of satisfaction as the snow disappeared to be replaced by rain, the air temperature slowly climbed into positive figures as we descended, and the wind seemed to drop off as we were essentially on the lee of the mountain now. It was a wet but very enjoyable ride down the hill through all the big curves into Omeo. This photo is the crew of 8 at the Mt Kosciuszko lookout a few kms out of Omeo. Well below the snow line now, but still cold conditions. I took this photo with the Nikon, using the delayed shutter function which gave me 8 seconds to take my place in the group. When I saw the photo and all the faces, I assumed I had inadvertently stood in a hole as the shutter went. But no. It appears I had just shrunk. Disappointing. I’m sure I’m taller than Noel.

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Less than a week ago, Andrew passed the last of his Airline Transport Pilot Licence theory exams – the notoriously tricky Navigation and Flight Planning exam (which was the last step he had to take before being eligible for employment as a first officer with an airline – he is now waiting to hear from QANTAS on the fate of his application for employment, having done his interview and simulator check late last year). He promised himself a new drone as a reward if he passed this last exam. Being a good bloke, he honoured his promise. This is the drone. I have watched the arrival and evolution of drones, without any real interest in getting one. But this drone’s amazing capabilities did interest me. Andrew has mastered it quickly.

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Drone photo.

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Another drone photo – fantastic angle. Omeo is nestled in the valley in the distance near the top right of frame.

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The Omeo Motel.  Margie, our host was just great. Apart from being prepared to forego any charge when we cancelled our booking, upon arrival she shouted everyone a bottle of beer (thanks Darren for being my proxy drinker). This generosity was for occupants of rooms paying only $64 per night each. Some of us didn’t get our breakfast orders in by 8pm the previous night (or indeed at all), and as Margie delivered the properly ordered breakfasts, she offered to take any orders from the delinquents. Another kind gesture. We all left the motel feeling well fed and well cared for. She gave us the feeling that as customers we mattered. The rooms were entirely comfortable and warm. A bargain at $64 a head. I’d go back there.  We dined in the neighbouring pub on the Saturday night.  Classic country pub fare in a warm and hearty atmosphere.

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Practically speaking, we had three routes to choose from to return to Melbourne from Omeo – via Gippsland and Noojee, or over Falls Creek and down into the Kiewa Valley and home via Bright, or north to Mitta Mitta and across to Myrtleford via the top of the Kiewa Valley and on to either the Hume Highway or Whitfield and Mansfield.  Option 1 would’ve been all low level (but would’ve left Gilbo and Andrew riding north alone), option 2 would’ve required getting over the top of Falls Creek (elevation 1800m) after a cold night, with high probability of ice on the roads, and option 3 which involved climbing no higher than 1400m AMSL en route to Mitta Mitta, and thereby avoiding both snow and ice but at the cost of an extra 100kms or so.  It was agreed that option three was the only practical option in all the circumstances. This photo shows the road beside the Mitta Mitta creek as we descended from the high country and neared the township. The curves were starting to widen out by this point.

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I have ridden from Omeo to Mitta Mitta many times, including years ago when it was mostly dirt. I always have a feeling of achievement and triumph on cruising into the town of Mitta Mitta, with all those curves and all that wild country successfully negotiated and now behind me.  We had  sunshine, rain, heavy fog and cold conditions and wet roads all the way on this 114km leg. That’s my son in law Hambo fossicking around in his top box.

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Brothers (and my nephews). .

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Nephew and Uncle.

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Brothers. See, I am taller than Noel, unless of course he was standing in a hole this time.

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Father and son. Noel having a chat with Andrew who left us at Kiewa and headed up to Griffith to renew his low level flying endorsement the next day.

We departed Melbourne at 7:30am on Saturday, and returned just before last light around 7pm on Sunday. Distance travelled 1000kms. No frights (or none reported….) or falls. Widely varying road and weather conditions encountered. Lessons learned about how to stay warm and dry. Each one of us is now that little bit more experienced. It was an enjoyable little adventure. A lot was packed in over the two days. The trip was short because some of the group have real jobs requiring attendance on Monday morning. The company of the large group was most enjoyable – but they were carefully handpicked.

Andrew left us at Kiewa. Gilbo left us at Myrtleford. Brendan peeled off at Yea and returned to Geelong on secondary roads NW of Melbourne. Noel left us at Growling Frog Road just south of Whittlesea. Mike left us in Thornbury, and Darren and Hambo waved me off as they rode down Plenty Road beside my street heading for Richmond where they returned their bikes to the hirer.  Hambo then caught an Uber home, and Darren found his way to the station and caught a train back to Geelong. All checked in reporting safe final arrival at respective homes with a flurry of short messages. Job done.

I’d do it all again, with this group  (but hopefully more days and more kms next time).

High Country Ride, Autumn 2018

1500 kms around the Victorian high country in 5 days, with Barb and Colin, friends from Port Lincoln South Australia where we all lived and worked in the late 1970s.  Barb and Colin were on their BMW R1200RT, and Liz and I were on the mighty BMW R1200GS.  These two bikes are quite similar, and are ideal for a ride such as this.

The photos below are a sample of a few of the highlights of this ride.  It’s entirely possible the captions add nothing to the photos.  I know of one occasional reader of this blog who is firmly of this view.

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0800 departure from Melbourne on day 1.  Destination Bright, via Marysville, Taggerty, Snobs Creek, Jamieson, Mansfield, Whitfield and Milawa.  Overcast conditions until north of the ranges beyond the Black Spur.

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Rest break by a mountain stream in the national park south of Lake Eildon, between Taggerty and Jamieson.  These two have enjoyed many a laugh together.

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View over some the dry eastern reaches of Lake Eildon, on the descent into Jamieson.

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A side street in Jamieson.  It’s a peaceful place.

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Day 2 started with a ride up and down Mount Buffalo before heading off to Harrrietville for morning tea, after which we rode over Mt Hotham to Omeo and an overnight stay at Anglers Rest.  Photo shows the bikes parked near the Mt Buffalo Gorge and Chalet.  Crisp clear air and deep blue skies at this elevation.

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The hang gliding launch ramp at the Gorge on Mount Buffalo.  The ramp faces north.  Visiting this site brought back some great flying and holiday memories.

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The hang gliding launch ramp. There is a dacron tell-tale either side of the end of the ramp, to give a pilot about to launch useful information as to the wind behaviour. This ramp is 4527 feet above sea level, and 3200 feet above the valley floor below.  It is a sheer drop over the end of the ramp.  It’s not a difficult launch in the right conditions, but there is no room for error.  I have taken off here in my hang glider and climbed to over 8,000 feet above sea level in the thermals which are plentiful and powerful in summer.

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Lizzie and the GS beside yet another right hand hairpin on the climb up to the summit of Mount Hotham.  The most distant mountain range visible between Liz and the dead tree branches is the Mount Buffalo plateau.

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Barb and Colin with the BMW R1200RT nearing the summit of Mount Hotham.

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The BMW R1200GS in its element.  This is a very evocative image for me.  There was a high pressure system over the state which created a temperature inversion. The air in the valleys was hazy as a result.  But as we neared the top of Mt Hotham we climbed above the inversion into crystal-clear cool air.

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Mount Buffalo in the far distance, and Mount Hotham in the immediate foreground (near the summit).

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Anglers rest north of Omeo is on the Cobungra River, which joins the Big River not far south of Anglers Rest. At their confluence these two rivers become the Mitta Mitta River.  This is Alpine National Park country.  These horses were tethered near the Blue Duck Inn (the pub at Anglers Rest) after a day’s riding in this remote and mountainous area.

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Unseasonable warm weather saw most of our daytime riding in temps in the high 20s and low 30s. But with clear skies, the nights and early mornings were cold. Frost greeted us as the sun rose on day 3 at Anglers Rest.  But the temperature quickly soared as the sun climbed above the ridges.

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Poplars on the banks of the Cobungra River at Anglers Rest.   I had to wait for the sun to rise high enough to illuminate the full length of the poplars before taking this photo.  The camping area is just the other side of the poplars near the river bank.  The question is, did I post this photo with the reflections at the top or bottom of the image?

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The Blue Duck Inn at Anglers Rest.  A warm and historic pub favoured by anglers, bush walkers, motorcyclists, canoeists and the like.  Cosy accommodation with a wood fire in every room.

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North of Anglers Rest, near the turn off to Falls Creek. The road was all curves, but at various points there would be a sign announcing the next 2, 5 or 27 kms of curves!

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Day 3. We rode from Anglers Rest to Tallangatta, then along the Murray Valley Highway to Corryong. We then headed west on the road which closely follows the Murray River through Walwa and similar small towns. We returned to the MV Highway via the Granya Gap – a longtime favourite set of curves of mine.  This photo shows the mighty Murray River in its upper reaches where it is clear and clean.

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On the banks of the Murray River.

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Lizzie on the banks of a bend in the Murray River. It was very tempting to go for a swim, but a daylight arrival in Mt Beauty was favoured over riding in after dark.

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This is where the temptation to swim peaked.

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Yackandandah for a coffee and a very nice vanilla slice on day 4.

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I followed the GPS for the route from Milawa to Whitfield and found this uncrowded and picturesque dirt road.

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On the last night of the ride we opted to stay on Mount Buller. Sunset in the high country never disappoints.

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Lizzie, perfect pillion passenger, in the last minutes of the golden hour on Mount Buller as the sun was about to disappear behind the summit.

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Some time after sunset and not long before last light this was the view to the north from Mount Buller. It shows some of the high country we had ridden through for the last 4 days.

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Steep descending turn.  The Mount Buller road does hairpin turns better than most.  There had been a bit of rain over night so the trip down was slower than the trip up the night before.

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A favourite watering hole in Yea. Excellent lunch, and they do care about their coffee.  Overcast skies, 30 degrees C and rain threatening but not delivering.

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1500+kms in five days. About 85 litres of fuel used. The motorbike performed flawlessly, notwithstanding its age (9 years) and its ‘experience’ (220,000kms ticked over on this ride).  Great country, great company, perfect weather, and uncrowded dry roads.  I took this photo with the Nikon on a mini tripod using the delayed shutter release.  As I took my place beside Liz we realised there were gum leaves threatening to photo bomb us – hence our list to the right.

24 Hours in a Heat Wave

The open doors and windows which normally provide cool air on hot nights, were like open oven doors as the early northerly wind picked up strength around dawn.  The first task was to seal the house and turn the ceiling fans on to high.  The second task was to wheel the motorbike out of the garage for an early morning cruise to Port Campbell.

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This wonderful machine, the BMW R1200GS has provided over 215,000kms of riding joy in the 9 years since I bought it.  It never misses a beat. Lizzie (my favourite pillion passenger) and I headed west not long after dawn with the hot northerly evident but not yet dominating the weather. For example it was hotter in our front yard than it was 300m down the road on the GOR beside the sea. As we wound our way through the first 25kms or so of dense temperate rainforest, the gullies and shaded areas were still cool and it was only in the more exposed areas that the hot northerly had mixed down into the fresh cool air of the rainforest. Air temperatures varied from 19C to 29C, with rapid changes within this range according to topography, density of the rainforest and the distribution of the dark shady areas not yet touched by the sun or the wind. As we were wearing flow-through mesh summer motorbike jackets, we could feel every degree of temperature change.  The early ride through the temperate rainforest was slow as it was wallaby and other wildlife peak hour, and there was a lot of tree litter on the road.

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The rapid succession of cool and warm air masses in the temperate rainforest quickly gave way to uniform high temperatures along the the treeless farm paddocks and swamps of the Glen Aire valley. The temperature jumped to 27C (there’s an air temp readout on the motorbike) and continued to climb for the rest of the day.  First stop was Castle Cove, with lines of solid swell marching ashore sculpted by the offshore northerly wind.  As always at Castle Cove, the rip locations are not a secret.  On this day there was a solid diagonal rip from left to right, clearly visible in the picture.

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The view to the west from the cliffs overlooking Gibson Steps. These stacks are not part of the famous Twelve Apostles, but come from the same factory.

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Ruler straight lines of big Southern Ocean swell hitting the offshore reefs at Gibson Steps as seen from the cliffs beside the Great Ocean road not too far east of Port Campbell.

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Port Campbell bay.  Don’t be deceived, the sea between the heads of this bay was not billiard-table flat, despite appearances.  There was a good swell running with long intervals between sets. At times before and after this photo was taken there were breaking waves rolling in beside the jetty.  Only two days until I swim in an ocean race at this bay. It’s the best of the ocean swims on this coast for my money. Only 180 or so swimmers and a course that takes us outside the heads of this bay to where we can look east along the cliffs. Currents often feature in this swim and so do rough conditions.  There are reefs and plenty of plant and marine life to see underwater.

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After a 1000m swim back at Apollo Bay for a bit of exercise and to stay cool, and a later body surf with Lizzie to continue staying cool, the sun finally made its way towards the western horizon. Temperatures in the shade in Apollo Bay were in the high 30s.  Much of inland Queensland and New South Wales experienced shade temperatures in the mid 40s.  The Australian Open tennis comp continued in Melbourne, with court temperatures recorded at 69C (156 degrees Fahrenheit).  Seems like madness to play tennis in such conditions, but with a $55m prize pool waiting to be divided amongst the players, they were not asking for play to stop. But after two cooling swims, each followed by a cool shower and with the sun still looking white hot but lowering towards the horizon, the Barham River and Marengo Beach beckoned with rewards of a different kind.  I found the black swans in their usual evening locations, on a bend of the river between the GOR bridge and the mouth of the river on the beach.  That sea mist sliding over the dunes in top left of frame was from Marengo Beach, wafted ashore by a very light south easterly.

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Contrary to appearances this was not a chase. The smaller bird was cruising the surface and feeding. The crested tern was on the downwind leg of a circuit for landing with a large evening gathering of terns and other water birds.

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In the rushes and tangled vegetation on the southern bank of the Barham River, this delicate little bird was spotted.  Does anyone know what it is?  More of a flitterer than a flyer making it impossible for me to get a shot of it on the wing.

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As the wind died to nothing, the banks of the Barham River were replete with life, large and small. March flies were all over me and I constantly needed a hand to swat them. Curiously, I didn’t get bitten once.  These March flies seem to lack commitment, unlike their NSW cousins whose ratio of skin landing to bite is close to 100%. (I know this from painful personal experience). Insects like this (cabbage butterfly?) were flying jerkily around their patch  as is their wont, beside the river,  making a photo possible only when they alighted on a flower.  This one looked a bit old and worn, with his patchy wings and faded colours. But he flew OK and seemed to get his share of the food.  Perhaps he’s just a grandfather butterfly of great age suffering normal wear and tear, but coping fine. At the start of my 1000m swim earlier in the day, when I arrived in the deeper water behind the surf break, I spotted a perfectly formed butterfly of this species (showing none of the wear and tear of the one in the photograph) on the water with one wing laying flat and stuck on the water surface and the other beating the air vainly in a futile attempt to free itself from this unlikely trap.  I placed a hand gently in the water beneath it and lifted. The instant the wing was clear of the water it flew away perfectly, apparently unharmed.  Interestingly it headed unerringly and without any hesitation directly to the shore some 70m or so away. Is there really enough room on board this small frail flyer for navigation equipment?

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Terns are so elegant and aerodynamic on the wing. This was the colour of the sky to the east.

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This silver gull was flying over the shallows just before the sun set, looking for a snack on the wet sand between waves.

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A sharp image of a silver gull flying well within range of the telephoto lens.  This photo has not been cropped.

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This is the source of the sea mist just visible in the photo of the black swans above.  The final bends and pools of the Barham River are just over the dunes to the right of this image. In summer, the stream in the bottom of this image is the full extent of the Barham River trickling out to sea across the beach.  It can be quite a different story in winter. It certainly was a golden sunset.

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Looking along the rock shelf at low tide as the sun set over the hills behind Marengo Beach.

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Marengo beach is often deserted. But the heat wave brought walkers, strollers and watchers out in droves looking for somewhere cool.  The child doing cartwheels was something I first saw as I was looking through the view finder and taking photos of this heatwave evening on the beach at sunset.

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It was still very hot when I took this photo. As there was no wind, the sun’s disappearance signalled the gradual beginning of respite from the heatwave day. Even then the temperature didn’t drop below the mid 20s overnight.

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I am working on taking hand held photos of birds in flight with the telephoto lens on maximum focal length (without the monopod or tripod attached).  I would’ve simply settled for focus and framing on this practice shot, as it was taken looking towards a very bright sky.  I knew I’d get no detail with the camera settings I had. But there is something I like about the silhouette of this cormorant cruising over the beach at day’s end.

After a very hot night at Apollo Bay, notwithstanding that temperatures over 40 are forecast for Melbourne and many inland places, today we are forecast to get no hotter than mid 20s.  I woke up before dawn, and the trees along the creek beside my window were already silhouetted by a clear blue sky with a pastel pink horizon.  I checked sunrise time, and saw it was at 0622 (20 minutes or so away).  So I grabbed my swimming gear and walked down to the beach.

While swimming out from the shore at the start of this swim, in quite shallow water I swam directly over a large black stingray who had not yet greeted the day.  My thoughts always go to Steve Irwin when this happens.  As I was only an arm length or so above him, and my momentum was going to take my right over him no matter what I did, I rolled onto my back (a sting in the back seems preferable to one in the chest) and then on to my front again, which placed me some small distance horizontally from the stingray.  I’m guessing he bore me no ill will, and that his stinger would not have been used.  But for some reason, the resident rays at Apollo Bay have not formally integrated with the residents (as seems to have occurred in many tourist beach areas especially up north), in that we don’t pat them or feed them, nor do we swim with them touching their wings, and we don’t say they are tame.  We basically stay out of each others way save for incidental encounters such as this.  I prefer it that way, and I’m guessing they do too.

Expectant tourists were standing on the beach waiting for the dawn with iPhones and cameras poised, and the car park was nearly full of those who preferred to stay seated in the dress circle for the spectacular event unfolding.

The sea was in a benign mood, with very little swell and a glassy deep blue expanse to the horizon above which the sky was now burning bright gold.  I swam out beyond the small shorebreak and headed south. By breathing to the left, every two seconds or so I saw from water level the next instalment in the unfolding show of the golden sun melting its way up into the morning sky.  A beautiful and peaceful start to the day.

I don’t mind a heat wave on the coast.

 

 

Early winter ride to the Flinders Ranges, South Australia

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Departure from Apollo Bay, to rendezvous with my brother Noel on his Yamaha FJ1200 at Hamilton in the western district of Victoria for a week or so of riding in  South Australia, including the Flinders Ranges.  I’m riding a 2008 BMW R1200GS which I’ve had from new, and which ticked over 200,000kms late last year.

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Approaching the southern end of the Flinders Ranges on day two. Noel had just pulled over to remove the remains of his speedo cable which had disconnected and destroyed itself.

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Going north into the Flinders Ranges as the late afternoon light took on its golden glow was a rewarding combination of time and place.

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The southern hills of the Flinders Ranges came into view as the sun neared the horizon. The low angle light of late afternoon brings everything out in stark relief with intense colours and long shadows.

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Red soil, the hardy bush grasses, saltbush plains, the foothills of the Flinders Ranges on the horizon and a windmill, all bathed in the late afternoon light. This was part of that afternoon’s answer to the question, why do we ride.

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Thirty kms out of Hawker. Warmth still rising from the road and soil even though it was early winter, with the air cooling rapidly as the sun’s warmth faded. We often stop just to sense all that is around us in quietness.

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Between Hawker and Wilpena Pound we stopped to enjoy the serenity. When we arrived at Wilpena resort,  having had to dodge roos coming at us from the left and right of the road  on the 5km road into the resort (they just don’t let up after dark) we apparently rode past an unlit sign off to the side which might have helped us avoid our fate which was to unwittingly enter the caravan park and camping ground maze. It was heavily timbered, there were only curving roads which followed no pattern, and there were no signs. The sun had long set so we had no western glow to guide us, Wilpena is not in the GPS list of places, and there was no moon. So we rode around and around, totally lost, seeing only tents and caravans, until we finally had to swallow our pride and ask directions. It was a weird feeling of disorientation after successfully navigating 590kms to get there, to be totally lost in such a confined area. But don’t worry, Wilpena Resort is now in the GPS.

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The mighty GS cooling down after the day’s ride of 590kms from Pinnaroo to Wilpena Pound. We rode from Hawker to Wilpena after sunset, and it was Rooroulette all the way. Noel and I slowed down to 50-60kph and were mighty pleased we had excellent driving lights this time.  On our last trip to SA we got caught out well and truly by the dark (a series of closed garages and no fuel, but that’s another story) and had to ride from Burra to Waikerie in the dark, with headlights not much better than a torch. It was true roo and emu country. Countless sightings that night. Tonight I rode in the lead, the time honoured ‘Roo Boy’ position, as Noel would have it.  I had to brake on dozens of occasions as roos came out from the left and right, solo and in groups. Only one warranted max braking and he missed my front wheel by a couple of metres. After a most welcome hot dinner at the Wilpena Pound Resort dining room, Noel and I unpacked in our room, and then rugged up and rode 2-3kms out to the resort airstrip – because it was a very dark place on this moonless night. It’s in a bit of a valley, surrounded by horizon silhouettes of the rocky peaks of the Flinders. This silhouetted range is Wilpena Pound. I took the Nikon out and Noel brought the tripod. We were rewarded with a spectacular view of the Milky Way as we stood in the absolute quietness, the air perfectly still and getting colder by the minute (it was 6C by the time we rode back to the resort). We stayed there long enough to see the view of the Milky Way change quite markedly as it faded on one horizon and intensified on the other. Paradoxically, staring for a while into the Milky Way makes me feel both insignificant and wonderful.

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In addition to capturing the Milky Way, this photo on the lower left shows the Large Magellanic Cloud, a neighbouring galaxy – a bonus I didn’t see/recognise until I downloaded the photo and was so informed by a passing astronomer.  The mountainous horizon is the northern ridge of Wilpena Pound.

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Adjusting the settings on the Nikon D810 at the Wilpena airstrip on a cold, dark and wonderful night (Noel took this).

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After an early morning departure from Wilpena, en route to Blinman, we were unexpectedly rewarded with 30-40kms of great ocean road quality bitumen winding through the hills. The roo population meant that we travelled at a lowish speed enjoying the scenery and stopping frequently to enjoy views such as this.

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The mighty GS in one of its natural habitats.

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In the northern Flinders Ranges, we had 120kms of dirt roads from Copley to Arkaroola. This was a good stretch.

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A lot of loose gravel and corrugations were encountered. We didn’t see much traffic.

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So inviting.

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Late afternoon arrival at Arkaroola.

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We had to ride along a valley in the shadows for the first 5kms or so of our early morning departure. It was cool.

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Noel and I are brothers, we are close, and we enjoy riding together. This photo was taken after riding out of Wilpena along the valley of the shadow of cold still air and turning south where for the first time that day we had the sun on our backs. This photo seems to capture something of the camaraderie of being on the road together.

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Noel and I estimate that while riding to and from Arkaroola, we saw more than 100 roos crossing the road at an inconvenient time i.e. right in front of us. There were also scores of emus, always in a hurry it seems. On the eastern edge of the Flinders Ranges we encountered a lot of goats. I also came a cross a few brumbies, and one pair of donkeys.  In terms of wild life close calls – we both had a few. I came too close for comfort to a small roo en route Hawker to Arkaroola. Then on the way to Arkaroola I narrowly missed a family of goats when I was going down hill on thick loose gravel where control was reduced. My closest encounter was on departure from Arkaroola, in flattish country east of the hills, when a large roo I didn’t see came across the road at an angle towards me. It was a dirt road, I had been doing about 80kph and I applied max braking relying on the ABS which gave me the best possible braking in the circumstances. Fortunately it was a flat section of road. I believed I was going to hit this one and braced. He kept up his speed and I reckon I missed him by a metre. As he passed in front of me his head was at the same level as mine. I’m confident that given my speed (80kph washing off fast to a slower speed) I would’ve walked away had I hit him, but the bike may have finished the trip on a truck. I love my ABS brakes. Noel had a close call with a wedge tailed eagle which was having a meal on some road kill. It got airborne as he approached, then circled back to the food in front of Noel – he ducked his head down onto his tank bag believing it would hit the screen. They missed each other. He also had a few roo encounters similar to mine.

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Typical northern Flinders Ranges terrain with the road crossing a series of ridges, valleys and creeks.

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Fortunately most creek crossings at this time of year are dry.

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We rode on a lot of this going through creek-bed crossings. The GS moved around a lot under power on gravel such as this, but never uncomfortably.

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A damp creek crossing.

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A wet creek crossing.  It’s a tribute to the mighty Nikon that this raging torrent with the force of approximately two runaway freight trains, could be made to appear so still and unthreatening.

 

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Get the weight back, pick a line, look ahead and wind the throttle on.

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Noel on the Yamaha FJ1200 playing in a creek crossing puddle. The speed and splash seems to be a direct result of him being aware the manoeuvre was being photographed. He emerged covered in muddy water with his engine steaming away. I invited him to have 3-4 more runs at progressively higher speeds to see if I could get a ‘really good shot’. But he declined.

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Dry creek bed. In a deluge, the creeks flood and rocks such as this become the concealed creek bed beneath the water – staying upright would be a challenge in moving water over such a surface.

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This is the road to Parachilna (visible in the distance) once out of the Flinders Ranges. Noel took this photo with his Nikon P900. At the time I had slowed down to ride past a dead roo with a large wedge tailed eagle having a feed. It reluctantly got just airborne and settled back on to the road when I gave it wide berth. When Noel rode past the same eagle and road kill a short time later (at a higher speed), it got airborne and  instead of retreating to safety either side of the road or by climbing, it nearly collected him. He ducked down with the chin of his helmet on his tank bag hoping to shield behind the small windscreen. A near miss.

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Not so shiny now. But it’s good honest dirt.

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Parachilna Gorge is in those hills in the background. This is the T-intersection of the road from Blinman with the Outback Highway (Hawker to Leigh Creek and points north). I had a close encounter with a group of emus on this road. Noel rode a fair way behind me to avoid eating too much of my dust.

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At Parachilna, the pub is renowned for its quandong pie. The quandong is a wild peach which for some reason seems to have resisted domestication and commercial exploitation. It is neither sweet nor tart, has lovely texture and flavour, but is still worth only about 30% of what the pub charged for it. But as it was Noel’s shout, I didn’t lose any sleep over the price.

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80kms north of Adelaide on the last Saturday of our ride, after dark and in the rain, Noel noticed a grinding sound/feeling under load. He correctly diagnosed it as a sprocket carrier bearing (which is in the rear wheel). It was a slow ride into Adelaide with Noel in front waiting for his back wheel to lock up, as we crawled along at speed which required me to put my hazard lights on when traffic approached from behind. Fortunately we made it to Kym & Jo’s house where we and our bikes were accommodated in style, and on Monday Noel was able to buy a replacement bearing and we were under way (in heavy rain, but at least in daylight) around midday.

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The offending bearing.

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We took the long road back home via the Coorong. This was dusk on a cold and wet night in Kingston in the south east of South Australia, where we spent our last night of the ride. What a contrast to the northern Flinders Ranges.

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About 75kms from Apollo Bay on the Great Ocean Road. My home territory. I take a photo from this spot just about every time I ride this stretch of road. Today it was blowing a gale, and my window was brief if I wanted to keep the Nikon dry.

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Missing the second shadow.  The GOR on the approach to Pt Campbell from the west. I had a coffee and huge chocolate brownie in front of the fire at Forage on the Foreshore, looking out over the bay with a strengthening cold sou’ westerly whipping it up. Wasn’t fussed that I didn’t have the wetsuit and goggles with me.

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Between storm clouds there was sunshine. This was taken looking SW from the car park at Peterborough. The sea has the texture and colour of a rich oil painting. Makes me want to break out the old palette and oils for a bit of variety from taking photos.

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I wasn’t faintly moved to take a photo of anything today, until I got to the Bay of Islands near Peterborough. The rocks reminded me of those moored ships off Newcastle, but the rocks are so much more impressive.

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Tucked away safe and sound with the other toys, looking as if it has been nowhere at all in recent times. I rode from Lavers Hill in the dark – a slow ride given the wildlife in the Otways. It was 10C in the lounge room at Cawood St when I first arrived. No prizes for guessing the first task! The fire was quickly lit and the house soon warmed up.  Another top ride with Noel Edwin.

I also used to enjoy finishing a lengthy trip (weeks or a month or so) in a light aircraft, and putting it back in the hangar or on its tie-downs in a paddock basically exactly where I found it at the start of the trip.

In both cases, once it is parked, unpacked and secured at the end of a trip, and about to be left alone until the next trip, there is a feeling of deep appreciation for the inanimate object, for the  machine that has served me so reliably and taken me to such wonderful places, and finally delivered me back in one piece to exactly where it started. I pull up short of talking to machines, and patting engine cowlings or fuel tanks is in the same category. But before returning to the life less exciting while such machines remain parked,  I find that I linger and admire the machine that has been with me through whatever the adventure was, and count myself most fortunate to have had my horizons extended in such a manner. Somehow the experiences the machine has given me are imprinted in it, and it will forever remind me vividly of them. This is one of the reasons I cannot see myself ever parting with the GS.