Category Australia

Darwin, again

The first two days from Alice Springs to Daly Waters
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The heat had backed off to 38C as forecasted.

Alice Springs is within 50K of being half way between Adelaide and Darwin. We expected the first 1000K going north from here to be a repeat of the last half, but it wasn’t. The first 500K was grassland, possibly an extension of the Barkly tablelands to the east we’d ridden through a few months ago

We’d been wondering when we’d see our first termite mound again, going north. Here it is, just a little fellow. The center is just too hot for them

We’ve never seen a big one on the road shoulder, so I guess it’s just a matter of time before a road train removes them, sadly. They’re fairly solid so a car wouldn’t risk it

The town of Aileron doesn’t have a wiki entry so we couldn’t do our usual evening read. Pop about 25 as usual we’re guessing.

But we found out about this. The sculptures of aboriginals of the Anmatjere tribe are about 40′ tall , located here. Artist Mark Egan was contracted by the roadhouse owner to build them

The female figure and child was excellent. A coloured guanna at her feet

The roadhouse

Aboriginals doing what they do in the heat: sit under trees in separate guy/girl groups

Back through the grasslands. A strong side-breeze today. It’s been a concern that Lucinda overheats in a tailwind in the outback. Fortunately it’s never pushed her into the danger zone, but it’s been close a couple of times

Gassed up at the Barrow Creek roadhouse. For travellers, this is the only roadhouse we’ve seen in Australia we wouldn’t overnight at, unless we had no choice. There have been some rough places so far, but this is the roughest. Rough isn’t always bad, it’s sometimes good, and if you’re going to ride Latin America you need to enjoy it, but this pinged our keep-Lucinda-safe alarm. Secure parking is hard to find in Australia and no way will they allow you the L.A. fallback of rolling the bike into the room

A bridge, which was odd in the middle of nowhere. Then we saw the line. We had to look at the map to see where it was going: It’s also crossing the outback north/south. Probably a fast way to do this with no night stops. This is the only time our path crossed

A rock formation off the road made a change

Not big, about 50′ at the highest

A sign nearby shows how they were formed. Just like Joshua Tree, but mini

About 10′

A great Australian sign, terrific names. If you look carefully you can see our tiny new Clearwater LED lights, 4000 lumens total, so with our existing bi-xenons we’ve now got plenty. Too much unless you’re alone out there, but the Clearwaters have a ‘volume dial’ by our right thumb. Very nice

Our first water in 2000K, unless you count the poison pond and that temporary trickle in Alice Springs. We’re not in croc country yet, but soon

Then at Tennant Creek, everything changes. The lush green is unexpected and is almost shocking. We’ve changed climatic zones. We’re now in tropical monsoon place and time. More on this below

Agriculture is happening here. The road trains are limited to 3 trailers here, we’re guessing, since we don’t see any of the superb 4 trailer behemoths we saw in the west. But they’re still excellent. We looked it up and the 3’s are limited to 53.5 meters, 175′. The speed limit on this long stretch north of Alice Springs is 130 kph, so imagine how they look flying by at that speed. When they hit the kangaroos and emus at dawn and dusk, as they do with regularity, the remains are an unimaginable mess. Obviously they don’t slow down before or after. Hitting cattle is the only concern

Another fire. We ride out for a closer look because we’re looking for something

We don’t see it at this one. But later, at another fire, we do. Back in the west we saw eagles circling above fires and thought they were circling the thermals. But actually, we found out, they’re watching for small mammals and reptiles running from the fire as it invades their homes. Once in a while a bird will stoop for a kill and eat it on the ground

Very cool

Doing a low pass

The aftermath. The termite mounds in the background survive these fires – certain lizards tunnel into them to lay their eggs for this reason

Beautiful birds

Then a long ride to Daly Waters

It’s a bit like Camooweal somehow, but smaller. A nice place, pop 25. Google Earth

About 4 miles from the main road

A typical outback house

It was founded by John Stuart on his 3rd (and successful) attempt to cross the outback in 1862. It’s a bit wacky, trying to attract tourists

It’s now famous for the pub. A great place to stay

Years of travellers from around the world have left bits and pieces here attached to the walls and hanging from the ceiling. Bras above the bar

Ladies can staple their knickers to the ceiling provided they take them off then and there, same as the bras.There are more bras than underpants

One wall area had these. For the second time this trip there’s a Vancouver Police badge. The first time we saw one sewn to the jacket of a tough Peruvian, which was curious


Locals, looking like locals do everywhere

Daly Waters to Katherine
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Still hot, and now humid. The curse of the northern Stuart, and Darwin in particular

Dressing the termite mounds up again. This one had a wedding dress on

We’re at Katherine, so the crocs have started. This is probably stuffed with them. It’s wet season so they’re breeding and antsy

Katherine to Darwin. The final ride in Australia, so a thoughtful one
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Towards the clouds. We have 3 hours to get into town before they build to monsters and all hell breaks loose. Lots of time

And through town to the sea

Darwin is a bit lower than center here

The climate specs. It rains more in 90 days here than in a year in Vancouver, and it does it in an hour a day, not everyday
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Darwin is in a cyclone zone and the tropical storms build in the afternoon at this time of year. They’re violent. Once, when they were counting, Darwin got struck by lightning, the big type, 5000 times in one hour. It’s legendary for it. The first day we watched one build like this

Later, at sunset, they’re nearly gone

And on that note: I’ll be combining my journal with this blog at the end of the month and it won’t be publicly accessible. There will be a map and some brief milestone posts on another site, so please email me on the ‘contact’ page if you would like that future address. Thank you for following along. Safe travels.

to Alice Springs

The track. Nothing showing there at all for 300 miles, a long ride for a hot day
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As you approach Alice Springs the terrain becomes hilly

And more vegetation, although it’s no cooler

Abrupt crags

A truck asleep in the shade

The Finke River. It’s one of the oldest rivers in the world and possibly, with the sister rivers here, the oldest, formed 350 million years ago, long before Australia broke off and formed a new continent. This is where you can look at the river banks here and imagine aquatic life make million generation millimetre-by-millimeter progress onto land for the first time, unless you’re a punctuated equilibria theorist, an incredible thought. A short article on the big-picture geology here

Late, beside the road, we passed camels under a shed, in the shade

So, some instruction before take-off. ATGATT

Into Alice Springs

Alice Springs (pop 28,000) somehow lodged itself in my mind as early as any city names, like New York, or Paris way back at an early single digit age. There was something about the image of this beautifully, almost perfectly named town in a vast outback that grabbed me as maybe the most fascinating place I’d heard of to date. Maybe everyone has that memory.

The facts are the same as the memory but the details have changed and it’s not what I imagined as a child but just as interesting. Crime is a serious problem here. The 18% aboriginal population is largely blamed. The town is a mess but a 1st world mess. Nothing like the shitholes (in rider-speak) we’ve seen elsewhere.

Alice Springs and the main street from Anzac Hill. The gap between the hills is the road we rode in on

The steam that runs through town. This is run off only from the surrounding hills and there’s some water in it from a storm a couple of days ago. Rain is infrequent here

We went to the Alice Springs Reptile Center. It’s awesome we hear because it has 10 of Australia’s most venomous snakes, the 5 biggest pythons, a croc and some lizards

A list of the reptiles there for the curious

There was like a school show-and-tell. A python

A skink

This small group of buildings, built in 1872, was the reason Alice Springs exists and why it’s one of the most famous towns in Australia. It was the telegraph station between Adelaide and Darwin and the result of an epic engineering feat of stringing a 3000K telegraph line ultimately to connect Australia with the outside world

Kangaroo in the shade with a bird on its back

There are many incredible stories about this accomplishment and a few specially interesting ones. For instance Alice Springs was named after the wife, Alice, of the main engineer/adventurer/mastermind Charles Todd, who pulled the project off. Nice. But the awkward part is that he didn’t name it that. One of his men William Whitfield Mills did.

Anyway here’s some of the original equipment. You can reach right over the guard rail and tap the morse tapper

The original telegraph station managers. Just a wild guess but that might be Todd second from left and Mills on the right, lol

And outside a crow-sized bird

to Uluru

It’s about 1000 miles/1500K from Adelaide to Uluru in the heart of the outback, more or less the center of Australia. Uluru FullSizeRender

We’ve been told we’ll be nearly alone as it’s mid summer and not the best place to be at that time, with temperatures going as high as 45C. But we’ve done our homework and have a plan, lol. It’s been awhile since we had to think, since before Karumba, where we time-crashed for lack of anything satisfying on the horizon. Here’s the Delorme track from Melbourne FullSizeRender

First day, Adelaide to Port Augusta Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 3.09.50 PM

An uneventful ride. That’s Lucinda hiding in the shade with a fruit sign. Temperature low-to-mid 30’s DSC09725

Then Port Augusta to Glendambo Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 2.48.41 PM

The change is dramatic beyond Port Augusta. The red sand is back, the trees are thinning DSC09729

Then nothing but increasing heat DSC09735

A rest stop with no shelter DSC09749

We’re riding into one of the most isolated places on the planet. I guess there are springs everywhere, or this is the remains of an evaporating lake DSC09751

We walk down to the water. It’s toxic DSC09754

It continues, never boring because it’s so empty. A wonderful feeling. There’s the occasional road train and maybe one car headed down from Alice Springs per hour DSC09761

And our destination for the day, the Glendambo (pop 20) roadhouse. When we stop we’re attacked by noisy flies. They head straight for the eyes and ears and are about as annoying and crazy-inducing as you can imagine, and there are millions of them. More on this in a minute. We’ll have to put up with them for the central 2000K section of the Stuart DSC09767

Glendambo to Coober Pedy Screen Shot 2015-02-21 at 2.29.54 PM

A few trees as we leave Glendambo. It’s so beautiful… DSC09787

And about every 75 miles, we guess later, mini solar power stations, should power ever be needed by crews on the road in the outback maybe. Lucinda’s in the shade for scale DSC09792

Then nothing. It’s over 40C and way hotter oven-blasts of air cross the road from some local effect every few minutes. Hours of riding towards the road’s vanishing point, for hours sometimes, unchanging DSC09807

From a rise we get this view into the far distance DSC09800 - Version 2

At one point it’s so flat and straight they have a full size emergency landing strip painted onto the road here for jets. The ‘flying doctor’ doesn’t need this, apparently they land nearly anywhere DSC09797

We see one spot of green all day, a spring we guess DSC09810

Off we go to check it out, hoping to see some wildlife under it DSC09818

But nothing. We poke around gently with a stick hoping for a snake, breaking RTW Rule #1: Don’t do anything stupid. But we’re all geared up and a snake will probably just hit the leg armour DSC09821

Then into Coober Pedy. The only real town we’re going to see other than Alice Springs for a long time, then Katherine, then Darwin DSC09827

The town sign. An opal mining truck. It vacuums up dirt excavated from below the surface. That can on the back is the filter. It’s pumped from the front. All the gear here has this super-primitive look, there’s a gold rush mentality to everything. But worse, opals, hardened silica gel, are a utility scam. But how we had that confirmed here is another story DSC09840

In 1915 they discovered the opals here in the outback and a town was born P1090098

It’s famous for the underground houses they call dugouts. And Coober Pedy is home to an isolated population of the world’s most venomous snake, the otherwise rare Inland Taipan (wiki link). It’s so hot, and the flies so fierce, the miners dug homes into the hillsides. The flies almost define life and dominate conversation in the central outback in the same way as crocs do in the smaller northern riverside towns. In summer, away from the comfy and dull east and southeast coast, this is not an easy country. This is a facade in front of a full-sized windowless underground home. Between the flies, the snakes and the extreme heat (42C today and still climbing) they had no choice P1090088

It was legitimately called the opal capital of the world, but the supply is running out so the town has been in decline P1090102

Strange signs and objects from previous days P1090100

We went for a tour of an abandoned mine, guideless but with a map. Very cool and quite bold. You just wandered around down there, following small signs. At one point a sign pointed to a small squeeze as the way forward and laughed: this was like the Fremantle prison tunnel system, Aussies are obviously into this. Not a country for claustrophobes P1090045

A museum that was part of someone’s house in the 70’s, which gives you an idea of living space underground. Not bad at all P1090076

They had jars of snakes in formaldehyde P1090080

It was all so interesting we spent a day here. So the plan has been to make a dash from roadhouse to roadhouse in the mornings and be off the road by some time after lunch. So when we wake to a cloudy day and only 33C, and a mid-afternoon high of 38C due to a storm over Alice Springs, we ride a less defensive stretch to Erldunda, 500K north, past the previously idea of the Marla roadhouse. Coober Pedy to Erldunda. Unfortunately our OSM map doesn’t have the few buildings of Erldunda at this resolution but it’s there Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 6.50.04 PM

We start the days with 3 X 680ml’s Powerades and/or water and a Camelback with 3 liters. Every water-stop we find we soak our t-shirt and stock up DSC09864

At one point there was this plant fruiting in the grass shade. About the size of an orange DSC09871

A low ridge beside us for a while, the only feature we’ve seen for hours DSC09882

Through our worst-case stop, Marla. Water, gas, shade and an Aussie pie DSC09889

A mini-mesa DSC09892

Back to the nothing DSC09893

Just outside our stop at the Erlunda roadhouse, low granite crags. There was a shower here last night and the grass is lushly green. The red of the ground is getting more intense. It’s stunning. They call this area the ‘red center’ DSC09902

We rode off to the rocks and took a Lucinda pose shot DSC09904

Outback fried granite DSC09908

The big event: the 160 miles west off the Stuart to Uluru Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 5.36.08 PM

Off again from Erlunda DSC09920

Red, green and blue. And some black DSC09924

The landscape DSC09921

A small hill has attracted 4X4’s. There’s a left lane and a right lane. I guess they race up it DSC00127

A nice pose on topDSC09936

Then, not on the map, is a little gas station and cafe at Carvin Springs. The spring must be very productive: it’s an oasis of green DSC09966

Baby birds on branch DSC09949

Mom appears and they scream for lunch DSC09942

The final 100 miles or so looked like this. Beautiful DSC09967

Then, finally, Uluru. It’s massive. 1100 feet high and 5 miles around. Of course the feeling you get seeing it after 1000 miles of flat nothing stops you DSC09987

The final ride in DSC09991

Some close-ups on the less steep side DSC09996DSC00007

The most massive of the buttresses DSC00009

For more, the uluru wiki Then after a while, back to the little town 5 or 6 miles back. The two-day GPS track around Uluru and Kata Tjuta, about 30 miles further west. The black line road below has been closed in an agreement with the aboriginals but we rode all we could Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 12.11.37 PM

We’d set the alarm for 5:00 to ride out for sunrise. A bit early and worse, when we arrived at a good spot we were attacked, as we always are, by the flies. I took these pictures later and cropped in hard so we could see what the bastards looked like. I guess they’ve evolved to drink the moisture from animals eyes, nose and ears, but the favorite target are eyes. They’re noisy, aggressive and have no fear of being swatted and there’s anywhere from 10 to 50 in a cloud around and on your face. It’s no small deal at all. About 3 or 4mm’s long DSC00080

Nasty DSC00077

Back to the rock. A bit of light. The sun will rise behind us, hopefully giving us a nice effect on the rock, as we’ve all seen in photographs DSC00026

Then, turning around, action DSC00024

But it takes a little longer, until it’s like this DSC00030

And the result is perfect DSC00045

Then the ride out to Kata Tjuta. Not too hot yet DSC00054

It was similarly impressive but the pics didn’t turn out as the sun was behind them, and there was no way around without a big hike, and we don’t do big hikes in full gear DSC00091

Uluru is as special as anything we’ve seen and attempting to describe it won’t do it justice. It’s definitely worth a special trip to see, no matter how far away. Some birds that day DSC00058

three days to Adelaide

The morning after Lucinda is finally ready we take her for a shakedown to Phillip Island and back. Plenty has been achieved and we’ll post a few pics later. The work has been done at BM Motorcycles in Melbourne who we were told earlier in the ride were one of the best shops in Australia. Here are James and ChrisP1080981

I learned a lot from James as he walked me through areas and processes to add to my slowly growing knowledge inventory. He has the blog address so I won’t be too effusive, but working with him was an excellent and fun experience. He was patient and generous with his knowledge. This is the shop you want to apprentice in.

But not short. Parts took a while to arrive. Plus that particular Aussie thing of no long distance rider first-in-first-out privilege. So when you’re here, book your appointment well in advance, as we did, or you could be waiting a couple of weeks. We booked a month in advance but still our hours were allocated into a schedule.

Back to the track
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One of the most famous rides in Australia is the Great Ocean Road. It starts almost immediately SW out of Melbourne and lasts about 100 miles before turning inland.

You ride a cut above the water through hills like this

It’s a good twisty road looking out over the deceptively blue Southern Ocean.

But we’ve picked the wrong day. The road is thick with traffic, mostly tourists, and it’s a Sunday. It’s a bit hazardous as once in a while a car will cross the center line or pull out of one of the many view spots too quick into traffic or two slow.

The beaches are covered in people

The road occasionally goes inland like this

The land behind the ocean

Most of the coastline is beach. Difficult access means no people and a better view

The is one of the Twelve Apostles, sea stacks just off the coastline. There’s a parking lot to the right of the road and a short walk to a viewpoint where you can see them all, but today it’s overflowing with cars and people and so one Apostle will have to do. I’ve heard that there are only 10 anyway, however that works

The next day the hills are gone and we ride a few hundred yards to a mile or so parallel to the ocean. It’s a pretty ride nonetheless


We stop a few times and ride to the ocean. This is the site of Victoria’s (a state name) population of 600 Hooded Plovers, one of the world’s nearly extinct birds

And the beach looking east. Thankfully not a soul

Looking west. Time to slow down, sit down, listen, plugging in to the bigger thing that offers easy access at times like this

Later crossing more vegetation like this

To an estuary

Later, a 2800′ pier

The next morning gassing up, guess what, yet another DR650, nicely sorted, with a 30-ish litre tank. As we’ve said before Aussies love this bike and since they’re both motorheads and good riders we should take that as a solid endorsement

We take the Princes Highway the third day to Adelaide. Actually this is a little road, what we call a highway is further inland

And take a short road to the beach after a while


Later we pass flats of what appears to evaporated shallow ponds

Dominated by this tough and interesting plant

We ride out onto a huge flat, careful to ride between the plants. It’s soft but only packs below Lucinda to a cm or two

A quiet and good ride

Later this harsher environment

To another estuary. What the pictures don’t show is the feeling of remote wildness to this stretch of road. It’s memorable

And into Adelaide.

Melbourne 2

We’re due some catch-up posts but first, after sending more stuff back to Vancouver we’re well below the 100 litre gear target.

So we’re doing some of the last photos for the gear page in the menu bar above. But check out the place-holder there anyway.

The below two groups of stuff go in these Cascade Designs 5 liter stuff sacks. I have a dozen or more of these in my panniers and 2 in my duffle. Lightweight, durable and the perfect size for most stuff. Fantastic little bags. Next time I would have color coded them. Bic lighter for scaleP1080925

So in the first bag, tools. No-one makes a nice set of composite or fiber tools yet that we can find, so we have this heavy pile. Most riders are going to say it’s critically short. There are glaring ommissions. But we’ll accept the risk and have thought about potential consequences and solutions.

Nothing really notable here. I wish I’d bought the big T-handle torx 2 years ago though. And the big 17mm wrench is annoying because I don’t trust the crescent wrench not to damage the soft metal axle nut remover. The funny looking screwdriver at the left is a home-made socket/driver for the rear Ohlins pre-load, which we fiddle with to level the bike after gear carrying changes, which is probably OCD, but anyway

The parts bag. We’ve ditched all our back-up parts except one. From the left, top row: Replacement pre-filter. Patches for when holes appear in the duffle, Goriila tape (found a new roll down here in Oz). Middle row: Inserter, reamer, plugs and adhesive, superglue, seam sealer for tank bag, spare oil filler cap, handfull of zip ties, whipping twine, baling wire, electrical tape. If you’re wondering where everything else is, we don’t carry it until we need it and then we won’t have it

Webbing, including an old MEC belt that seems to come in handyP1080941

Bike cover, extra 20 liter stuff sack, towel, TP, hand pump, Packsafe, 1st aid kit, compressor. Lighter for scale – it’s all mini

Tech. iPad mini, Mac Pro, Delorme, Garmin 650T, Contour

Documents pouch (passport, registration, insurance, duplicate licences, title, extra plate, etc), Carnet, maps

Clothing. Anything not warm weather has been sent home. Two pairs pants, three socks (surf socks bought in desperation recently), light poly sweater, 3 t’s, 3 underpants, trunks, crisp white shirt (essential) work shirt

Runners (Salomon, always) flip-flops, Patagonia water moccasins

Rain gear. 3-layer Gore jacket and pant (in stuff sack). The jacket packs up as small as the pant. Lighter for scale. These are now 2 1/2 years old and no signs of wear. Arc’teryx because we like to support a local company

Klim suit. As time goes on, the more disappointed we are with this suit. It has a quality: durability. We’ll do a review at some point. but next stop: Rukka

Winter and summer gloves (not sure where I’l find warm gloves when I might need them, so the only piece of cold weather gear I’m carrying), BMW branded enduro helmet (probably the worst quality helmet I’ve owned in my adult life but the weight is so featherlight I can’t believe it’s legal, great to wear, 2nd), The incomparable Sidi adventure boots (2nd pair), sunglasses

There’s a couple more gear pics to do, then they’ll disappear to the menu bar.

So, Melbourne
DSC09545 - Version 9

Melbourne 1

A story.

But first, we’re here for a couple of weeks. Waiting for parts. This is a small problem because we’re going to have to race the last 4500 km’s from here, through the hottest month (with the most rain, up in the tropical north) along the coast then up the center of Australia to Darwin before our visa runs out. Somehow that feels like a good situation to be in, it’s been awhile since we’ve had a gun to our head and that’s how adventures happen.

Lucinda in the middle of her first-ever complete tear-down. Things ahead aren’t very bike friendly so everything is being looked at and if need be replaced. For the second time in a month her rear sub-frame is off, so she’s been through a lot recently.

Here’s the scene

Her bench, color matched to her, as is the bike lift

This much detail. Her gearbox apart

We have some time to do some old-person planning and check out Melbourne in detail. It’s been rated the world’s most livable city once, which pushes my offence/defence buttons pretty hard, coming as we do from Vancouver, the world’s first and only post-modern city, home of all things nearly perfect.

So the story. Back in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the 2nd best city in the world after Vancouver, we went for a shave here

You know for a fact that any shave here, in the capital city of effortless and unadorned style, is going to be very good

And it was awesome.

So if Melbourne is so great we think we’ll go for a shave here too. We go here

The Melbourne Barber Shop. Just our luck, it has a moto theme and has bike pics all over the walls and a bike in the corner

It was flawless

So where are we going with this.

There are a few stages of a straight-razor shave that are close to heaven. The lathering up with the badger-hair brush. The feel of the blade. The hot towels. But best is the Proraso

After the hot towels the pores are open and on goes this blend of menthol from India and eucalyptus from Australia, shipped to Italy then distributed world-wide to fine barbers, in this case a round trip

Tasmania 4

First, some interesting speculation. Son of Lucinda

Two days and a night. First, Bilcheno to St Helens
Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 9.19.06 AM

A funny diversion off-course you noticed on the above track. We were told the Elephant’s Pass route was good but missed the first exit. We found out our mistake at a gas station 30 miles later, and reversed. I remember when my friend Julio used to check this blog looking for route errors and he’d email me about them, lol. I think the last big error was missing the exit to El Chalten in Argentina, so it’s been awhile. Another younger friend, Ben, wrote to say that the kind of reasonably attentive planning I do is what old people do. So I lose either way. Such is rider dialog.

The ride along the coast was typically beautiful

We stopped at a couple of beaches. Beach makes up such a high % of the eastern coastline you can stop just about anywhere

We arrived in St Helens (pop 2000) and they were having a community day. There were four main events today: a loggers contest, pedalling bikes, running and a small car show. There were surprises.

This was the scene around the logging event. Being from BC I was extremely curious

Two main events. The first

The choppers, as they call them here, were handicapped. So they started with what seemed a second or two gaps between them. Not the best shot

After the first couple of swings they really laid into it. They were through the logs in maybe half a dozen swings a side, but I didn’t count

And here was the surprise. The owner of the cleanup tractor (I always look for someone to tell me what’s going on) says that ‘the best chopper that ever lived’, a local Tasmanian, is here, but now retired. A pretty tall claim. I go and speak to him. This is David Foster

He’s a huge guy, maybe 300 pounds or something. He knows Canada well and has been to main events and world championships all over N.A. I check his Wiki later. Sure enough, he’s been a world champ 21 times in one event alone.

Then off to the pedalling bikes. This was the scene

The track

The grown ups

And maybe more appropriately, the kids

This little girl was last by miles but soldiered through the 4 laps

Then off to the car show. Muscle cars, as usual. No rice-rockets in sight. Perfect

Back to the track to see a kid we heard about at the pedalling event.

The scene, the 100 meter event, high school kids

It’s handicapped again. Look how far that kid in red is back from the others. His name is Jack Hale and a few months ago he broke the best ever Australian Olympic athlete 100 meter time. And that time was the fastest in the world (link) for a 16-year-old although his run was wind assisted. He was so fast here today he was past the other runners by 3/4’s of the way down and had a huge lead at the finish. It must have been a serious bummer for the other kids.

No time to set up for a good shot, so this is what we got. Not having seen any live world-class runners before, it was an eye-opener and slightly unreal watching him flash down the course

After which we had a Tasmanian hamburger which looks like this. Not just here, but anywhere. A patty between two pieces of untoasted bread, some onion

Later, into town

Tasmanian black swans in the bay

St Helens to Devonport
Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 9.20.00 AM

We climbed out of St Helens into the forest

After a few miles the growth took on that tropical density and the gaps between trees were full of large ferns

Like NZ but thicker growth and not as elevated

On a large outcropping was a modern aboriginal painting. We feel a bit lazy in not having done any reading on interpreting the symbols when we had the chance back in Brisbane. Whatever the meaning of the symbols and colours, it looks perfect here

Huge magnificent Eucalyptus trees. Nearly all 700 species of Eucalyptus come from Australia. A few are native to New Guinea and Indonesia to the north a bit. Then nowhere else. How they got to the shores of Lake Titicaca, who knows

Through a small and pretty village

Past another tannin-rich lake

And through the large town of Launceston where we stopped for lunch at yet another car show

From the Hotrod magazine of our youth

And finally to the boat back to the mainland.

This time a 9:30 p.m. sailing

Not in a nice little row like it was the other way. But once again the crew tie down the bikes. It bothers us but the local riders are happy with it

Waiting to depart

And up at sunrise the next morning


Some Tasmanian riders we hung out with on the boat on their way to Perth. The guy on the right has a brother there. He told me how many brothers and sisters he had. The Australians like to tell a story and exaggerate like crazy, who doesn’t, but the number of siblings he said he had was so huge I didn’t believe it. Maybe another world-record from Tasmania. He said it was because his parents didn’t have a TV. All the riders on the boat were super-friendly as usual but the moto-brotherhood is very different in Australia. I have a theory. More on this another time

Tasmania was fantastic. For us, this and the north and west of the mainland. More on all this when we leave Australia.

Tasmania 3

I was tidying up my tank bag, throwing old newspaper clippings (my source of stuff ahead, often), food wrapping, etc out. Tank bags are like handbags: they go where you go, and have all the essential stuff in them. For the curious rider, here’s mine:

Top row, left to right: Map of the day’s ride, folded to fit precisely in the tankbag window (an anal skill you learn quickly and normally would be out-of-character, but you know, the ride). Stack of current documents: insurance, inspection, and general to-do notes. A small stack of instructions for new stuff or stuff I can’t remember, like the Aussie dongle, the epirb, etc.

Middle row: TP, Lumix DMC TS5, Sony RX100 (this picture was taken with my iPad), wicked new usb-chargable LED lensor (should have taken it out for the shot), epirb, disposable local phone, iPhone. (Sat phone and Delorme in panniers for ‘safe’ Australia).

Bottom row: Chapstick, Visine, Opinel knife, lucky charm from one of my daughters, huge pile of pens (have to stop stealing them now I have enough), two tire pressure gauges plus spare valve cap, disc lock, mystery spare keys, lighter.

Missing are ball cap, back-up sunglasses and snacks. And the GPS lives here when I walk away from the bike.

Back to the ride. First day, Hobart to Port Arthur
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Second, Port Arthur to Bicheno
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It looks like rain again as we head southwest

Staying close to the ocean

Part of a hundred-year-old officers shed near one of Australia’s countless historic prisons

It was kept original inside

Past the town of Doo Town

Where it’s tradition that each house has a name that includes ‘doo’. You can imagine

To cliffs at the edge of Tasmania, facing Antarctica. But many miles north of the same view in Ushuaia. Looking a bit west

And east

Heather in bloom on the cliff tops

A ocean tunnel that creates a famous blowhole

But without much result

A huge arch

Then back on the road to our destination for the day

A big prison. Well, there are many big prisons all over the place here, as everyone knows

Port Arthur was mostly for reoffenders


Those impressions on the ground show cell locations and size, about 5 feet by 8. Outside windows were in the corridor, not the cells

Borders of Acanthus mollis

A great view from the prison to the bay

It wasn’t a patch on huge Freemantle Prison which was fabulous, but the situation was the thing.

That evening, at about 7, the skies opened.

How hard did it rain, right here south of Hobart? The hardest in 100 years, and it rains a lot and hard here. Once again, right time, right place

Beyond description. Overnight it rained right here 4.9 inches, 125mm’s. A few miles away, on a hill above the town it rained 5.7 inches, 145mm’s. Like an idiot I didn’t take many pictures, but it looked like this. Heavy water, visibility about 500 feet

The next morning this poor wallaby looked even more freaked out than they usually do
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Two days later we set off north again

In the field at the above view-point, this little bird

Possibly a better shot

His wife

Further north, this extraordinary sight, if you look carefully

Tessellated pavement. The short form is that a huge basin of sedimentary rock formed 160 million years ago under special circumstances. Now here’s the interesting part: the basin fractured under normal surface tension into this geometry

It’s good

Closer to the hill behind the beach it breaks evenly

Nice diagonals through the parallels

Back on the road

The narrower valleys looks almost filled up with the runoff from the storm

We were riding up the coast again. The landscape changed dramatically. It looked arid

A typical hill to the west of the road

Nothing to indicate why

Then finally, over a ridge to this

And down to the village of Bicheno, against the hills in the below pic

Windswept islets

That night we went to a spot where the fairy penguins come out of the sea, at night, to their nests about 200′ above the shoreline in the undergrowth below the trees.

They’re the smallest of the 17 species of penguin. They look timid and vulnerable and it’s hard not to worry about their nightly trip through the threats of dogs, cats and foxes. They take a few steps and freeze, look around, look at each other, and then one of the group makes a slow dash to the next cover.

They left the nest (there are 1 or 2 babies on the nest right now) before dawn and went as far as 20km out to sea to fish, diving as deep as 80′ to hunt. Then they return after dark to feed the chicks for a few hours before starting again. It’s serious hard work being a fairy penguin and watching them struggle from beach to nest was moving.

This is the best shot I got because it was on max telephoto and about a week exposure time, in near dark. The Sony RX100 does very well but sorry

This is the spot they cross

Gin-clear water. The Tasmanian coastline is as beautiful as we’ve ever seen

Very small mussels, no more than 1 cm