It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, and for good reason. I spent two weeks cruising around on my new 2001 KL250 Super Sherpa, enjoying the warming weather at the close of Australia’s winter.
The trip started in Canberra soon after my Sherpa’s visit to the mechanic. A new chain, sprocket, back tire, engine seal, levers, all new fluids and a tank bag and this little bike was ready to roll! Sounds like a lot, but it was a bargain of a bike that just needed a little love.
My safety driver Tom and I set off for Braidwood, and from there, onto a dirt road called the Araluen, taking us nearly down to the town of Moruya on the South Coast, a few hundred kilometers south of Sydney. It was a cold ride, but the sun was shining brightly in the blue sky through the Eucalyptus trees, creating a beautiful dappled and swaying shade. I navigated the burnt-orange road with ease on my little dual sport motorbike, getting a glorious 75mpg and wondering why I ever owned larger bikes.
As I left the Great Dividing Range, I was hit with warm coastal air enveloping me, making for a much more pleasant ride, and reminding me why I love motorcycling: the feel of the wind on your skin, the rush in your ears, the subtle changes in temperature and light, the sights and sounds of the world so readily available to all your senses. “To smell it and feel it between your toes you have to crawl. There is no other way. Not flying, not floating. You have to stay on the ground and swallow the bugs as you go” (Ted Simon, Jupiter’s Travels).
We reached our destination in a few hours’ time with only one small glitch (oops- converting liters to gallons incorrectly means you run out of gas on the side of the highway. Note to self: UK and American gallons are not the same). “The Farm”, an old dairy farm turned orchard turned Tom’s mom’s residence, is a welcome sight for the weary traveler. Big eucalyptus trees, a slow meandering crystal clear river, trees laden with thousands of oranges and lemons, long expanses of lawn and great home cooked meals. We stayed down at the Wood House all that week, enjoying the ancient white wood burning stove by candlelight when the solar power ran out, even making brownies and cooking meals in it once we learned its finicky ways. Daytime excursions took us to local beaches and neighboring villages for tea time, and by evening we reveled in the bright stars and Milky Way. At night we’d awake to possums screeching in the rafters after their foray into the world, but it just added to the charm of the place.
At the end of the week Tom drove back to Canberra, and I was left to ride down the coast to Pambula, spending a couple nights with a family I found on Couchsurfing. With great hosts and a big cozy bed in a private room in a beautiful house within walking distance to the beach, friendly roos in the local paddock, and a home espresso machine, I couldn’t complain. Another excellent (and totally free) surfing experience achieved. And people think beach holidays are expensive…
The plan from Pambula was to head south along the coast to Melbourne, but with cold dreary weather on the horizon, I turned around and rode back to Moruya and on to Nowra, and then Sydney, following the coast most of the way to glorious warm weather. The wind was insanely strong that first day northbound, forcing me to use every ounce of concentration and maneuvering to keep the small bike on the Princes Highway (reminding me why bigger bikes can sometimes be better). That evening I learned numerous trees had been blown over and several sailboats capsized in that same wind.
A couple days after various beach stops, winery visits and coffee and bakery breaks, I found myself in the hip neighborhood of Coogee (pronounced “coo-jee”), one of Sydney’s eastern suburbs. My Couchsurfing host Lucy was great, and I stayed longer than intended in her quaint apartment, full of old world charm. The first morning there I walked from Coogee to the world famous Bondi Beach along a glorious cliff walk. The wind was still strong, and waves crashed violently against the bluffs, the deep blue and turquoise waters beckoning swimmers in the more shallow and tranquil coves that dotted the long walk. I passed a magnificent old hilltop cemetery overlooking the sea, with ancient cracked tombstones bleached white in the hot sun and sea sprayed air. Further along and behind were salt water pools, the wild waves dashing against the man made structures as a few brave swimmers did their laps.
Within the next few days I took the picturesque ferry to Manly (named so because the natives on the beach had struck the first European explorers as being so very… Manly!), explored the CBD (central business district = downtown. Australians shorten everything), the Sydney Opera House, the aquarium, and even discovered a women and kids only salt pool hidden from view below the cliffs just minutes from Lucy’s apartment.
I loved being on the road, but I couldn’t travel too far with my current motorcycle luggage system (IE: an uncomfortable backpack), and I traveled southwest back to Canberra where I was expecting a motorcycle rack and windscreen to arrive from the States. I fought more heavy winds on the way back, worse than before and in heavier traffic, continuously stopping to rest and recoup, and wondering if I’d get blown off the highway. When I decided there was a 50% chance of it actually happening (after having donned every piece of safety gear and extra layers I had with me), I finally called Tom and his “Ute” to the rescue, completing my relatively small 1,200km loop around New South Wales.
This last week has been devoted to taking care of the chooks (Australian for “chickens”) while Kim is off exploring Vietnam for a month, and in turning the yard into a mini urban farming homestead! More on the gardening front later. It’s time to go play in the dirt!
Update: After several days in the garden, I finally met my big dark fear: an Australian Spider. I don’t know what kind, but I’ll tell you one thing- It was HUGE (nearly thumb sized) and I screamed bloody murder and threw my handful of pots to the ground making a big old mess that Tom had to clean up. I closed my eyes while he killed it (and plugged my ears just for good measure), but apparently it was red and yellow underneath. My skin is crawling just thinking about it… I’d google what kind it was, but it’s just too scary.