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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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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Around Australia – Heading South

Heading South now, down the west coast. Leaving Derby for the bright lights of Broome. Just a short ride today, 220km but not much to see along the road. I didn’t quite know what to expect to find in Broome, maybe something like the Gold Coast? But we found a caravan park at Cable Beach and no high rise. We did a quick cruise around some of the sights and did the obligatory sunset on Cable Beach. It was pretty good, but crowded (of course) and got a lift home in a rickshaw, we are definitely getting into tourist mode.

broomebeach1broomebeach2broomeicedcoffeebroomerickshawThe next day was another long ride to Port Headland. Red sand, flat country and straight back into the global economy of iron ore trucks, trains and big stuff. Monday morning we left Port Hedland and it was like peak hour with dozens of 4 trailer road trains carrying mountain loads of iron ore from the Pilbara.

Our relaxed, wild northern holiday was over, plus, we had reached the half way point – 8000kms and 3 weeks down.

There was so much we wanted to see and do around here as it is such a long way to get here and it may be a very long time before we get here again. The Hammersley Range was spectacular with hills of lots of different shapes and colours and some hills disappearing to China and Japan.

 

We headed to Karajini National Park and had a quick walk down Dales Gorge, it nearly wore Grandpa out walking back up from the gorge. But no time to stop and rest.

The next day we rode 700km to Coral Bay to check out Ningaloo Reef. It was school holiday time and peak holiday season for the Grey nomads so even finding a little tent site was getting hard, we had to make sure we booked ahead. A few times we were in ‘the overflow’ area and couldn’t stay another night, so after our glass bottom boat and snorkelling tour we headed down the road 100km to the next roadhouse, Minilya Roadhouse for the night. A great way to fit lots into a short time.

We were trying to organise our schedule so we could get to Perth on Friday and get the bikes serviced and new chains. Kevin’s was stretching a lot, mine not so much. Getting to Perth for Friday was not going to leave us enough time to see what we wanted to but we wanted to have enough time for the south-west before heading home. We decided to book the bikes in for the following Monday and hopefully the parts would all have arrived by then.

We were looking at our map book which only shows a small part of Western Australia on each page but when you look at the whole picture it is a bit daunting, like this map at Nanutarra Roadhouse, 1100km from Broome and still 1275km to Perth. Better get riding.

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One of the best things about Western Australia is the incredible variety in the vegetation. Not only is it renowned for its wildflowers and BIG trees but even in remnants in the farming areas there are all sorts of grass trees, shrubs and flowering gums along the side of the road(didn’t stop to take any photos though, sadly). More beautiful sunsets and a great old pub at Dongara before heading inland as we had done this next part of the coast quite a few years ago.

We finally caught up with the rain which had been ahead of us for a week or so. Just some showers and starting to get cooler, the liners were getting put back into the jacket and pants. It was so good to be back to real towns with bakeries and a permanent population, not just FIFO’s and backpackers. Sunday we arrived in Perth and after dropping the bikes off on Monday morning we took a ferry to Fremantle and had a look at this fantastic old town. We found the remains of the Batavia in a museum here which made Grandpa very happy.

After picking up the bikes and ‘gulp’ paying the bill, we were set to head further south. You can always tell when money has gone to someone’s head. Western Australia has got so much revenue from the ‘mining boom and it shows in the towns being developed with big new roads, shopping centres and housing developments. It looks great, sort of, but at the same time it looks so wrong and empty. Kind of like back home where you just plonk thousands of people into a new suburb and think you have created a new ‘community’.

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We ended up at Augusta on a rainy afternoon and I decided a motel was the go for the night. So we watched the sun go down over the Indian Ocean for the last time and in the morning we would turn east!

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