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07 Jun 2019

BY ANDREW LEWIS  

“Now that’s a strange looking dog.” I did not think those words would pop into my head when embarking on a four-State, 17-destination, 7,060-kilometre, high summer annual leave motorcycle journey, living outdoors, by myself, camping all the while. But I did think that this would be a little pedestrian when compared to my past journeys, which have traversed much of the continent.   

All of my stuff has to fit on the motorbike. My fondness for organisation, the amount of gear and order that has to go into packing my bike once prompted a colleague to utter “that behaviour is the most OCD thing I have ever seen”.  And, before you ask, “don’t you get hot in those leathers?”, it’s no problem when riding but, when you stop, it’s like wearing a wet suit in the sauna.

On previous trips my modus operandi has been to maximise escape from the usual, seek extreme heat and travel huge distances away from people.  But, having relocated to Canberra in October 2016 to serve Federal AMA, I took the opportunity to travel the backroads and visit some key features of my home State of Victoria (with some Queensland and South Australia thrown in).

Back in 2012, when half of Queensland was literally under water with floods, I camped right on the water’s edge under a tree at Copeton Dam. This north central NSW dam was only at 12 per cent capacity rather than it being filled to its usual 1.5 times the size of Sydney Harbour, and there was a major bushfire.  It was very, very smoky camping.

The ride out, heading north at my preferred dawn departure time having decamped as usual under an uninterrupted star canopy, was reminiscent of what I imagine a battlefield to feel like just after the combatants have departed. This was the residual effect of the fire having ravaged around the dam, closing the roads and causing evacuations. I didn’t see burnt bush as I sped by but there was an eerie light, a low-pressure atmosphere and it felt oddly lonely. Once before I have had that feeling when on one of these past journeys. Back then, just after sun-up somewhere near the West Australia north-eastern border with the Northern Territory, I came across a crashed road train with a collapsed cabin (driver clearly had not survived). This crash had obviously occurred overnight and had just been cleaned up. I’m still not sure whether imagination creates sensations or whether there are experiences not fully explainable.

Anyway, on this trip, I had a great time for a few days camping on my best mate’s property on Mt Tamborine in Queensland. Then it was time to head south.

Apart from a murderous ride on a 25-kilometre track into a mid-NSW national park after 600km in the saddle, this holiday was fairly cruisy riding. Oh, hang on, I forgot about the 900 kilometres in one day from the desert of Wyperfeld National Park (north Western Victoria) back to Canberra. What a killer! Note to self, feet swell in the heat, motorcycle boots do not move, the pain causes screaming inside your helmet.

The only irritant at Buchan Caves (Victoria south east) was that my underground camera skills were found wanting to the point not one stalactite deserves re-publishing here. The caves don’t beat Jenolan for variety or beauty but for sheer volume; fantastic. I had not been to Wilson’s Promontory (most southern tip of mainland Australia) since 1989, despite its closeness to Melbourne, but I can report it is an absolute jewel. Really oddly, the water is warm, much warmer than just experienced mid NSW coast. The 15-kilometre hike beginning before sunup took in three bays to the West with an occasional black wallaby sighted hoping on the beach.

In Halls Gap, the Grampians, Western Victoria, the four-hour or so hike up to the lookout was lactic acid inducing and despite heading off before sunrise, my tee shirt was as wet from perspiration as if I had jumped into a bathtub. Rewarded with fantastic views from a great height and after a one-hour rest of we go back down the single track. An exhausting number of hours later I find myself back at the top; what a total idiot! I had lost the track three quarters of the way down and clearly chose the wrong direction having re-found the track. Be aware, hiking ridge lines means up and down are not as obvious as you might think; that is my excuse anyway.

Beach relaxation in Port Elliot on the Fleur Peninsula and Robe, both in South Australia, along with camping on a stream in Mt Beauty (the Victorina high country), was just like a ‘normal’ holiday. Goannas roam free and the beach is uninterrupted north and south from my bush camp. So, there I was, on my birthday, by myself on the beach, in the near dark, about to watch the sun rise, and was later to watch a dolphin pod surf waves. I notice a strange dog in my peripheral vision. It was staring and then I noticed the moving pack… of dingos. Harassment without contact began and they didn’t wander off into the dunes until I showed my 6’4” frame and made confusing ridged arm movements. Happy holidays and if I learnt anything, it seems to me, Lindy Chamberlain was right!

Andrew Lewis is an AMA senior industrial adviser    


Published: 07 Jun 2019