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Month December 2014

to Canberra

It was a two-day ride to the capital, Canberra
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We thought we’d try the coast road again. This was a mistake for two reasons; it was boring again, and it was 150 miles of solid traffic. Electronic signs up warned of 2 hour delays getting through towns. Never, ever have I seen such a traffic screw-up. We rode the shoulder, the center line, anywhere we could to keep moving and it still took us 5 hours.

The second day inland was great
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No secret that BBQ’ing is the big thing in Australia and here’s how it happens at the side of the road. You pass a field and see this
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Park, and go here. Rob’s Shack
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Order and pay here. Really expensive, as usual. Food, motels, it’s all about twice the price of Canada. Beer is mercifully a buck or two cheaper a pint
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Go talk to Rob. He’s raking it in, so happy
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Yummy! Pork and lamb
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Go sit on a log and chat with Aussies on their Christmas holidays
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OMG fantastic. White bread and meat, hold the veggies. Bad carbs and protein: perfect riding food
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A big change of topic as we approach Canberra:

An anecdote: I heard that shortly after we arrived in Oz there was a fight on a beach outside Sydney. White Aussies were fighting coloured recent immigrant Aussies. To beef up the white numbers, cell phone calls were going from the fight out calling for more ‘sons of ANZAC’.

ANZAC here is as common a word as ‘Mountie’ is at home. It stand for Australia New Zealand Army Corp, the united force that has fought together for 100 years, from Gallipoli and all wars since. It matters hugely to them and they’re very proud of their fighting history.

So before we get to Canberra we see yet another photo (on a pub wall) of an ANZAC battalion posing for a shot on the Cheops pyramid in January 1915. 5 months later, on April 25, 80% of the solidiers here were slaughtered in one day
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Here is a detail from the photo. A father and his three sons link arms – all 4 were killed the first day
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So when Wiki says that the War Memorial Museum in Canberra is one of the best museums in the world, we shouldn’t be surprised. This is the single most attended sight or event in Australia by Australians.

It’s beautiful
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It’s on a rise, so hard to get a good shot of the whole thing. It’s actually very big
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Through the main gate is this
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Under the arches, like most nations, there’s a memorail wall. Here, the 120,000 Aussie soldiers that have been killed in the wars
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From the first
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To the current
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To match that, here’s the Victoria Cross medal hall inside
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The first 4 Victoria Crosses. Gallipoli
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The last 4. Afghanistan. The guy on the left, Mark Donaldson, is an extreme badass and almost a household name here
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There halls and displays that can keep you busy for days (we were there for 2), each about either an enemy or a battle, in 3 main huge areas.

Japan is maybe the most impressive area. The Japanese bombed Darwin, their subs shot up Sydney and Newcastle, they were committed, not involved. Unlike Canada they had a country under attack
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Some of the stories are beyond belief. Here’s a room devoted to a Japanese march of 1787 Australian prisoners of war, where they literally walked them (and brutalized them as they walked) to death. The only survivors were 6 who escaped the death march into the jungle. These photos are enlistment pictures
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Here’s one
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There were photos of individual Australians at the hands of the Japanese
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There were many displays in every media type imaginable. We took 170 photos and wouldn’t know where to start.

Sydney

Christmas in Sydney. Seems like a good idea. We’re not going back home now as we have to be back shortly for visas.

It’s going to be a maritime theme holiday, so first off to the Maritime MuseumDSC08064

Lots of cool things
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Like this sub, the HMAS Onslow. One of six retired Oberon class subs in the Australian navy
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You go down here
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Through watertight openings
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It’s fantastically complicated
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Like the communications room
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The engine room was enormous. Diesel electric.
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She was launched in 1969 and retired in 1999. Sadly she never had a chance to sink a ship.

Next day is Christmas, we’ve turned down 2 invitations, one in Bangkok which was tempting. But the idea of sharing someone elses family time doesn’t seem right. So Christmas eve we bought picnic supplies. We head off with a backpack full of treats through downtown
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Then to the waterfront
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To see this
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We stayed here on the pier and enjoyed the view across the water to the opera house and people watched.

People are taking selfies with these extension things that have been invented since I left home. There were none of these in Latin America or in the outback so it’s the first I’ve seen of this strange phenomena
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Another couple
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And another. Crazy. But anyway
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We walk along. It’s easy to think we’ve fallen into a tourist trap and will be disappointed, but not at all. The building is spectacular
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It’s apparently a bit clunky and thick-walled compared to Jorn Utzon’s original plans but you’d never know it
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Up close. This is where I had my Christmas day picnic, in the shade of one of the  ‘shells’, looking out over the harbour. Very nice
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I’d been looking forward to the next day, Boxing Day, for a long time, and set off really early to a spot I’d looked into earlier. On a hill-top overlooking Sydney harbour, here
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Which was here, top right
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The Sydney Hobart race! Yay!

The 70th anniversary, even
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We’re here not only to see them leave, but to see this: Comanche. The 100′ (less 2cm to be on the safe side during measurement) new toy of billionaire Jim Clark (photo stolen form the web)

Her transom is almost impossibly massive. Super fast on a reach undoubtably and built to break records. She was only launched a few months ago and this is her first race.

The talent on board is ridiculous. Ken Read on helm, Stan Honey navigating (we remember sailing against him on San Francisco Bay in ’82 when he wasn’t the highest-paid most brilliant navigator in the world, just a very fast kid in a 505) and Aussie Jimmy Spithill to out-brash even the Yanks
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We have a choice where to view the race start from. Either the start line from around the corner, or here, and watch them drag to the turning mark. We pick the drag.

And moments after the start Comanche roars into view, ahead of Wild Oats. There are 8 maxis and 110 others under 60′. The crowd around me are remarkable un-partisan. They are rooting for Wild Oats but are openly awestruck by the giant beautiful Comanche and are loving watching her power across the bay
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Then the other maxis come into view
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Comanche pulling further ahead. Breathtaking
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Comanche, Wild Oats and Perpetual Loyal race to the mark
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And the three of them round, close hauled for the shoreline
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The spectator fleet tries to keep them in view
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Behind, the rest of the fleet make their way out, looking sadly small and slow despite all being more than capable of this often dangerous 628 mile haul
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Comanche, built for breeze, sails into a high and slows to a crawl. Wild Oats, narrower and faster in light air sails past and on to her 8th Sydney Hobart win.

four rides to Sydney

It was really tough leaving Steph and Shane, but I’m going south and they’re heading north.

We head inland to Tenterfield
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A quiet, beautiful ride
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Then south to Walcha
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More of the same. Peaceful, uneventful
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Then to a famous bike road, Walcha to Singleton
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Fast open curves to start
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Then tight twisties
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Over some cool bridges
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Past Campsis radicans (or grandiflora) growing on the ground and not in the trees. Strange
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Then the road turned to dirt
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Great forest riding
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Out into the open towards Singleton
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Then the next day the Putty Road. The twistiest sustained ride in this part of Australia. 100 miles of flipping left, right
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Some mellower sections
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Where I stopped to take our Christmas card photo
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And into Sydney
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Something that Lucinda and I have been talking about: the whole ride down since Karumba on the Gulf has been OK, and if you hadn’t ridden anywhere else in Australia we might think fun. But the truth is that nothing compares to the outback. The ride from Perth to Karumba was unbelievable heat, an indescribable beauty but mostly nothingness for day after day. An incredible experience.

The good news is we’ll be back there soon for the grand exit route.

solo rtw riders in Brisbane

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Brisbane is gearing up for Christmas. The main shopping area looks like this
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We do our Christmas shop and courier boxes of Aussie things to BC and Ontario. That done, off we go to the gallery and museum
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Some beautiful aboriginal pieces
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There are two big things in town at the moment. The first is a show of Japanese prints. Some beautiful illustrated manuscripts and sketch books
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And as luck would have it, a Hokusai, but sadly no Utamaro
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They were running digital loops made from the Lumiere brother’s first Paris scenes, which we’ve never seen other than from stills. Mesmerizing
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Off to the museum. That strange skull in the middle is from a platypus
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These crazy skeletons are from the Australian frog-mouthed owl
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Anyway, we’d done our shopping, been to a few of the shows and just in time Steph Jeavons calls to say she’s arrived. Steph is the highest profile solo round-the-world rider, male or female, going around right now. A celebrity. Magazine articles, TV, the whole works. Her website is here. Her Facebook page has 12,000 likes, lol

Sponsored by Honda, she rides a CRF 250L.  She’s going around east. Here I am, in the presence of rtw royalty
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We hang out for a couple of days and mostly drink beer, looking at maps and talking about what’s ahead. But there’s another big show in town I want to see that I haven’t been able to go to: ‘Undressed, 350 years of underwear’. So I hijack Steph and off we go. But strictly no photos allowed. The show was small and disappointing, with the exception of the star piece, below
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Then, on the third morning, ‘RTW Shane’ (as he’s known) shows up and off we go!

Shane Smith is an Aussie on a DR650. He’s travelling west and is back here filing for his Pakistan visa. His bike is in India. The pic below is as he is on the road. He’s borrowed a local bike for his visit. No website, smart man
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It’s extremely rare for 3 solo rtw riders to meet. There are maybe only 15 to 20 going around solo at any one time. Steph and Shane are typical riders in their prime. 20 years younger than me… oh well
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Shane has a treat lined up for us and within minutes of his arriving, we head off
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This is Gold Coast, on the way
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Then we arrive at our destination: Nimbin
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It’s a hippie town
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Pot is sold retail, but they qualify you as it’s still illegal. Just say your from Vancouver. And they have their own vocabulary. ‘yandi’ is weed, ‘bush’ is the shake, the rest I didn’t remember! But this is all heresay anyway.

We went to a restaurant where they had ashtrays outside for pot but cigarettes were not allowed.

Crazy stores
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The three of us had a lot to talk about and were keen to learn about each other. As Steph says, it’s a good thing we stopped when we did before we learned too much. It was fantastic.

to Brisbane, separately

There was no chance of breaking into Lucinda in Rockhampton, so we decide to take the 600k coast road to Brisbane. But after a couple of attempts we can’t even get out-of-town. Not only is the clutch shot but we’ve got something else  going on. Wear and tear only. Details in Melbourne.

The Brisbane dealer tells us about a bike delivery service called Bikes Only, so we take that. The problem being bikes are picked up and consolidated and it would take a week to get there. I can’t rent a truck myself with my expired driver’s licence (to be remedied when I fly back for visas needed later)

Anyway, put Lucinda into a van
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And me into a plane
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This is definitely the most damaging thing yet to our pride. Hardly an ‘adventure’ rescue/repair. Correct long-distance-rider form here would be to strap Lucinda to a skid and drag her by camel…

Worse, Aussie bike shops are unique on this ride so far in that they don’t conform to the standard ‘first in, first out’ rule for international riders. We noticed this is Darwin first. So they work you in when they can but don’t drop everything to get you on your way, like in the Americas. So a week of transportation, 4 days to confirm the clutch is shot (and the other problem), a few days to order the part, then another few days to install it. Other than that they were great and we had a good discussion about what had to be done next, where and how risky it would be in the interim. More on this as the adventure unfolds over the next weeks.

So I posted an update with this picture and only one rider correctly identified it as the rear subframe only. Everyone else thought this was Lucinda stripped bare
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But look carefully at the position of the pegs and Ohlins. Here’s the rest
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So we spent plenty of time in Brisbane (pop 2.2M). It looks like this, on a cloudy day
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update

But we’re rolling again
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