2017 National Veteran Motorcycle rally- and other fun stuff

This event comes around every 2 years and it was the first time I got to ride a veteran (pre-1919) motorcycle. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, the 1914 Douglas has a clutch, 2 gears and brakes. We set off for the long drive to Nuriootpa, South Australia, across the Hay Plain and I had decided to break up the trip with a night camping out.

We have driven past Yanga National Park a few times, so this is where we set up camp by the muddy Murrumbidgee River for some peace and quiet.

I was looking forward to some nice fresh fruit and stocked up at a roadside stall near Mildura with mandarins and oranges. I knew about the fruit fly exclusion zone, so didn’t bring any fruit from home, but forgot about the rigid quarantine inspections at the SA border. Dammm. There goes my nice fresh fruit. So then I had to buy some more fruit and got walnuts too.

We arrived at the rally just as the earlier arrivals were setting off for a short warmup run before the rally proper on Monday. I hadn’t had time to have a practice run on the bike and wasn’t feeling too energetic so I was a bit apprehensive about jumping on with about 120 other old bikes and taking off. So I rested on Monday, then had a practice ride around the oval, run starting it, using the foot clutch, valve lifter and air and fuel levers. OK, I think I will be right for Tuesday. Negotiating STOP signs, traffic lights and other traffic is a bit nerve racking, so Grandpa did the short ride through town until the morning tea stop, then I hopped on and rode through the beautiful, green Barossa Valley to lunch and then Grandpa had the ride back into to town. That plan worked really well. Those 500cc’s might be more than one hundred years old, but they work really well, even accelerating uphill past other bikes.


Our Douggie

Now a week is a long time to be looking at old bikes and listening to old blokes talk about old bikes and watching them work on old bikes, so of course I also had a plan to go for a walk. The Heysen Trail passes nearby, it is a 1000km walking track from the coast south of Adelaide to the Flinders Ranges. Paula and I were going to walk about 20-30km overnight. We started through farmland with sheep grazing on the green grass. There were numerous hills covered in bush and pine plantations and communication and fire towers. There was a stone wall hiding in the bush and so many wildflowers out in the spring.

We camped at the Rocky Paddock campsite with what looked like manicured lawns courtesy of the hundreds of kangaroos living in the forest. Along the trail are some lovely places to stay and we passed the ‘Old Schoolhouse’ set up with beds, a fireplace, a toilet and water tank. It was so beautiful I could live there.

Then it was back to the caravan park which had a creek and parks around it. There was a bush garden growing endangered plants and harvesting seed, and a bush chapel if you felt inclined.

The only thing left to do then was to drive 14 hours back home again, until next time.


Mt Jagungal (nearly)


It was a big drive in the afternoon to get down to Cooma for my first walk in the Snowy Mountains area. There had been a lot of discussion about what the weather was going to do. There was a lot of rain on the coast but not a lot forecast for the mountains. So I had sunshine, cloud, grey clouds and rain off and on the whole way down. It was getting late when I arrived in Cooma, so I just had time to buy some dinner, have a shower and try to get to bed at a reasonable time.

Friday morning I was up at 6am to meet the others in Adaminaby at the ‘Big Trout’. There was another hour or more to drive to the start of our walk. We drove higher and higher, 1250m, then 1400m, then 1500m and then remembered that we would be up about 17-1800m on our walk. We had a brief stop at Cabramurra to make a last phone call to Grandpa and wish him a happy wedding anniversary for tomorrow. Ooops, I forgot about that when I booked in for this walk. The wind was howling but not cold, time to put on the fleecy. It was different driving along these roads as usually we only come here on the motorbike, still, I had time to enjoy the scenery. It was good to see that some of the trees were eventually resprouting after those really bad bushfires so long ago and those that were dead and close to the road were being cut down.


Our walk started from the Round Mountain Fire Trail and it was a last repack and put on warm clothes. We started walking at 9am and the weather was still the same, bit windy, bit cloudy, bit rainy but not too cold.

It is good making new friends as you walk along chatting away. We talked about how good for you walking is and bushwalking in particular. Walking is good for the mind, the rhythm of walking is soothing and meditative, we have evolved walking so the body knows exactly what to do, leaving the mind free to wander. It is a shame in some ways that we have replaced walking with other forms of transport except of course when you want to drive 400km to go for a walk! Walking is very good for your body and depending on how and where you walk, it can have tremendous benefits for your health and strength. The foot striking the ground builds bone strength, while walking uphill and downhill, increasing and decreasing your heart rate is a very basic form of interval training. Trying to keep up with a very fit 72 year old while talking can be a good indication of how fit you really are. But for me, bushwalking is good for the soul. I will be just walking along and then have a big smile on my face just looking around at the world, experiencing the weather, the trees, rocks, flowers, everything.

The wind and rain continued off and on but mostly it was great bushwalking weather, not too hot, not too cold but just right, in short, a Goldilocks day.

I could tell that the training I have been doing is starting to pay off, I could keep up the same pace uphill by using my glutes, as long as the hill was not too long or steep. The track was easy to walk on, an old fire trail that still must be used as some of the creek crossings had new culverts. The water flowing in the creeks was very clean and clear. Would be very nice in summer.


We passed Round Mountain which from some angles was flat on top, then we got glimpses of Mt Jagungal when the cloud cleared from the top. It is supposedly a ‘bushwalkers mountain’ as it stands alone and you can actually walk up the sides, rather than the other high peaks in the Snowy’s where they are only marginally higher than all the other hills around. There were still lots of flowers out, even though we are heading into autumn, paper daisies mainly, so it would be great to come in spring to see them all. We were heading to Dershko’s Hut and a sheltered camp site with a view of Mt Jagungal.  Dershko’s Hut is nestled in a sheltered valley with a small creek flowing by that we got our water from. It also had a loo with the best view of the sunset later. The walk in was about 17km and we were there by 1.30pm.


We put up our tents first, in case it started to rain heavier, then collect wood for the fire, then water and a look inside the hut. We decided to stay for a game of cards to pass the afternoon out of the rain.


When it started to cool off, we decided it was time to light the fire and get dinner organised. All I had to do was add hot water to my dehydrated spaghetti bolognaise, so that was easy. I was starting to feel a bit stiff, so went for a wander around and enjoy the sunset, it was beautiful. The sky seemed to be clearing in the west but the wind was coming from the east and the forecast didn’t look good for the rest of the weekend. Through the night the wind sounded like a gale but I was snug in amongst the bushes in my little tent.


It was still drizzling in the morning and the forecast was not looking promising with heavy rain and wind. Not a good day to walk to the top of Mt Jagungal. We discussed it over breakfast and decided that the best thing to do would be to cut the weekend short and walk back. A bit disappointing but I will be coming back later in the year, I might be able to go up Mt Jagungal then. So I packed up my gear without getting too wet and returned back along the track. We met a school group heading to camp at the same spot, we were lucky to miss that tonight.


We did a detour down to Round Mountain Hut, an original old hut and found a family staying there for the weekend out of the rain. They had ridden in on their mountain bikes. I loved the huge fireplace, one you can get right into and cook up a feast in, if ever we build a shack, that is what I will have in it. There were just some iron frame bunks and a table but it was very cosy.

RoundMountainHut4RoundMountainHut Inside4

We made really good time to get back to the cars with enough time to get home before dark. I would have preferred to go camp and walk somewhere else so the weekend wasn’t wasted but it was our 39th wedding anniversary after all and Grandpa was on his own, so off I headed home. Plus it was the youngest grandson Henry’s 4th birthday tomorrow and I shouldn’t miss that either. Oh, what a busy life!