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.

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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.

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Around Australia – Heading East (and home)

We left the south west corner of Western Australia on a very wet and miserable day. When the sun did come out, the glare on the road was really bad, but we got to see rainbows in the rear view mirrors. The next thing on our list was to visit some big trees. We passed through lots of towns ending in ‘up’, which means place, like Nannup and Manjimup and they all had great food and coffee, too bad we weren’t working up an appetite sitting on the bike.

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Now that’s a wagon wheel

A few towns along the way had been yarn-bombed, but Bridgetown was the best so far.

I found the big Diamond Tree which you could climb and had a fire lookout at the top. It was 53 metres up a dodgy set of spikes going around the tree. Grandpa didn’t believe me that I was going to climb it. It did look a long way up and the spikes were a long way apart and cold. No matter, off I went. It didn’t take long and the view once you popped out above the surrounding forest made it worthwhile.

Then there was the tree-top walkway to get a really close look at the Karri trees for those not into climbing.

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Our next camp was at Denmark where we could see the full moon rising over the sea. Much more private than the “Staircase to the moon” at Broome.

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The next day the rainy weather continued, we knew the weather would be like this in these parts. It really was winter but we were getting used to it now, 2 pairs of gloves, thermals and plastic bags in the boots helped to keep us warm and dry. Albany was an interesting place but wet so we continued to Hopetoun on the coast. The rain had eased a bit but the wind was blowing so hard it blew me and the bike over when I foolishly parked side onto it down by the water. The pub had a fantastic fire box which could have kept us warm all night though.

Next stop was Norseman and then off across the Nullabor and the big, long straight. The weather had cleared by then so we made camp at a roadside stop just past Madura (which had THE most expensive fuel of the trip $1.99/l) and had a lovely fire, the best camp of all. We came across this ingenious way of getting water in the middle of the desert. A big roof and some tanks, probably only catches the dew, but it was enough for us. The Roadhouses along the way will not let you have any water, you have to buy it in a bottle.

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The next day we were back in South Australia and it got slightly warmer. This is where the cliffs start along the Great Australian Bight and we had to stop at all of the lookouts. It is amazing scenery and you get the sense of what a big island Australia is surrounded by all that ocean. The last one at the Head of the Bight was where the whales come to calve and play with their babies. The new viewing platforms meant that you could see them closer than if you were on a boat. If you look close you can see a tail! (the phone doesn’t zoom very well).

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Still cold, wet and windy so we stayed at a dodgy Motel/Roadhouse. Where the German manager did a fantastic job of keeping the locals in line. A big day’s ride to Port Augusta the next day and the highlight for me was seeing the setting sun on the Flinders Range coming into Port Augusta. One day I am coming back for a walk. We set up camp and then found the best old pub by the water, Hotel Augusta with good food and beer and ambience. We nearly ended up spending the night. Somewhere along the road today, there was a town claiming to be the halfway point across Australia but all we saw was a bloody big galah!

So cold, cold, cold that when we stopped at a little place called Orroroo we bought thermal socks and had the very best pie of the trip at the Gum Tree Café if you are ever passing through. This was also home to a gigantic gum tree.

We wanted to see Broken Hill on our way home but in typical fashion, we only had time for a brief drive-by and then on our way the next day. The winter rain had been heavy all over and some of the roads we wanted to take were dirt and we didn’t fancy riding on mud, so we headed south to Wentworth  where the Darling flows into the Murray and then along the Hay plain. Our last stop was at the Bland Hotel in Quandialla and a quick hello to Daniel.

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blandhotel

And so back home again. My first thought when going inside was “What is this place? Oh yeah this is a house”. It felt very strange to be inside after being outside for all that time but gee it felt good to have a shower and find some other clothes that I hadn’t been wearing for the last 6 weeks.

We had such a great time, yes it was tiring and yes we would do it again, sometime later and maybe in the car with a kayak. The next day Kevin hopped on the bike and did the remaining 40km so we topped 16 000kms!! The bikes were really great even if they did cost a fortune to service and of course we have already started talking about where our next adventure will be too.

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