Monthly Archives: January 2012

Sunday Swarming

So I had a good idea through the week to go for a Sunday ride. We weren’t too sure how many Swarmers (Swarmisti?) would be around because of the long weekend, but surely someone other than us would be keen… There are five of us who manage to get away on rides most often (I don’t know Italian, but lo sciame cinque??? thanks google translate, I’m sure that makes perfect sense). Anyway, Chris, Nicky, Steve, Morgan and I met up at Dickson Shell to head to Gunning for lunch.

Gunning is a 63km ride from Dickson, through Sutton, Gundaroo and Bellmount Forest. It was a beautiful day, even though it was hot (top temp in Canberra was 30.5 today) and it was pretty good riding weather. The road is pretty good – a fair few spots are covered in patched potholes, which we just rode around. It was a little windy, but nothing that we haven’t experienced before. Also – there was not a lot of other traffic on the road which was great. But there are always a lot of bikes out on this road and today was no exception.

We had great plans for a pub lunch, but when we got to Gunning the pub only has Chinese – Nicky was very quick to say this was not going to happen (v. fair call) so we only used the pub for a refreshing beer. Also, Gunning has markets on the last Sunday of the month, so we had a bit of a browse before heading to the Merino Cafe for lunch. Given the cafe’s name, I guess it makes sense that lamb featured prominently on the menu. Chris had the Merino breakfast (all day breakfast – support) which came with a lamb chop and Steve had lamb chops. Nice. Morgan, Nicky and I had burgers which were great. Although they didn’t leave room for scones, what a shame. Maybe next time we will head out for afternoon tea… We also discussed a monthly Sunday ride – either the first or last Sunday of the month. Not huge undertakings, but just a ride away with the Swarm to find new roads and places and revisit old favourites.

The Swarm traditionally ‘meets’ on the last Tuesday of each month at All Bar Nun at the O’Connor shops. We knew that ABN was closing, but no one was sure of when.  So we decided that as well as being good Swarm riders, we would also been good Swarm researchers and go and see what the deal was. We arrived at ABN and it was packed and the band was loud. Yep – today was the last hurrah. So we grabbed drinks and found the only free table in the back corner. We decided that we would need to work out a new monthly meeting place at this week’s meeting, so our interim venue for Tuesday night is PJ O’Reillys in Civic. We talked about the Durham, but its trivia night on Tuesday night. Suggestions? PJs is going to be fine, Chris and I are both already planning to have the Tuesday special – schnittys. So farewell to ABN for the Swarm.

Home Stretch

Day 17 – Wagga Wagga to Canberra

The day was here – but sad to say that we weren’t looking forward to it that much. The weather outside did not look promising and the radar pictures on the web looked even more foreboding. We resolved to let things take their course while we ate breakfast in the main street. The cafe recommended to us was very much closed so we found ourselves once more in the Coffee Club – or as we call it, The Cluuuurrrrrb.

Outside the Cluuurrrrb

We had planned on this day to do a long way home – via the Snowy Mountains Highway and then north from Cooma. We were both keen for the corners and scenery but as it turned out, the weather was not on our side. Doing mountain corners in the wet takes away all the enjoyment.

And so it was that we farewelled Wagga Wagga to make the final trek home. The highway was thankfully quiet. I guess there weren’t a lot of people visiting Wagga this weekend. With only a relatively short stretch to ride until Gundagai, we took our time and enjoyed the scenery so familiar to us now – rolling hills filled with grazing sheep or cows. With music playing in my helmet I hunkered down for what is for me a very boring ride. Nikki loves this rural scene as I’ve said before so she was really enjoying it.

On joining the Hume (yawn) once more, I called Nikki and just groaned – I must have been a barrel of laughs to be with! Then we started to see them. Bogans, tons and tons of bogans. It had occurred to me the night before that we would be heading back home on the final day of Summernats and I couldn’t have been happier. I know lots of people get a kick out it but I personally would love to see the whole thing collapse in on itself. How much does a small tactical nuclear device cost anyway? That being said, I appreciate the time and effort that some people put into making their car look really good – it’s a passion that I understand all too well. What I don’t need is to see them burning through a set of tyres in 8 seconds while some bimbo jumps around without her top on. Honestly, I’d rather cut my own leg off.

We copped a little bit of rain once on the Hume but not that much. All in all we were very fortunate but still had flashbacks to last year when were destroyed by a storm coming in from the south. We made the fatal mistake of stopping at the Maccas near Yass for a coffee break. The Summernats traffic was immense and the place was packed – I mean PACKED. We found a small table to ourselves and I went to order the coffee which, rather surprisingly, came very quickly. We couldn’t get over the vast variety of people streaming through the doors. Every kind of mullet and blue singlet you’d every want to see.

The Barton Highway came and went in a flash, so it seemed. The scoots could smell home so we gave them their head. It seemed that no sooner had we crossed into the ACT that we were dealing with idiots on the road again. I could go on – and often do.

It was a great feeling to pull into our little laneway and an even better feeling to discover that the garage door still worked. We hugged and felt like we had really achieved something great. Here’s a little summary:

Barton Highway

Hume Highway

Bass Highway

Midlands Highway

Lake Leake Road

Tasman Highway (and back again)

Lake Leake Road (again)

Midlands Highway (again)

Bass Highway (again)

Princes Highway

Great Ocean Road

Princes Highway

Henty Highway

Glenelg Highway

Maroona-Glenthompson Road

Pyrenees Highway

Calder Freeway

Midland Highway (in Vic, not Tas!)

Northern Highway

Cobb Highway

Riverina Highway

A bunch of NSW backroads – middle of nowhere!

Sturt Highway

Hume Highway (again)

Barton Highway (again)

All up – 2915km ridden on our ponies. Not bad I reckon.

We’ve decided to name our best/worse experiences for the trip. For me, the best was eating at the Royal Mail – an experience I won’t soon forget. My worse was being laughed at by that blonde idiot in the orange car. I hate that I’ve let it get to me but there you go.

Nikki’s favourite was also dinner at the Royal Mail – seriously people, you need to go there. Nikki really didn’t like the leap frogging trucks on the Hume and the oncoming cars in Tassie being on our side of the road.

We both feel really lucky to have been able to do this trip. We marvelled often while out and about that we were actually doing it – not talking about it. We’re proud of ourselves and proud to have shown the nay-sayers that it can be done – and done easily. To all those who think you need something with capacity of a Mack Truck do go touring – harden up – you’re not hard core.

Thanks to everyone who followed the blog for the trip! Click HERE to see today’s pics.

So good they named it twice

Day 16 – Echuca to Wagga Wagga

After a not so great sleep we were back on the road, this time with only tea and toast in our tummies. The Steampacket Inn was a B&B, however there was one large table in the dining room containing a family with three children and granny. Rory just would not sit on his chair and turns out his favourite word is “no”. Ezra (oh yes – Ezra) didn’t need any help with his breakfast, given he was like ten years old, although his annoying mother kept asking whether he needed help. So we skipped the cooked breakfast and got outta there.

After a quick stop at the tourist information centre for a stubby holder, 30 seconds later we were in New South Wales. I guess we hadn’t looked at the map that well because we didn’t realise that we were so close to the border. Now the cache we found last night called “Almost New South Wales” makes perfect sense! More fuel in Moama before we were properly on the road heading to Deniquilin. Oh wow – I can’t explain how excited I was to be going to Deniliquin. Deni is home to the Ute Muster which has got to be about as bogan as you can get. On the ride in to town, we passed like three utes in a row and I could not believe it. So exciting! We randomly passed a scooter on our way in to town, but he turned off the other way to us otherwise we would have somehow managed a photo with him. We definitely got a few stares in town, and shared a parking spot with a local rider who was heading to golf. He said “nice day for a ride”, we said “yeah, were headed to Wagga”, he said “not that nice”. In recent years, the Ute Muster has been host to Cold Chisel and Ice House! There is no need to book accommodation, just stay onsite – bring your van or tent! These fun facts are courtesy of eavesdropping at the visitor information centre. My main question was why on earth does the Deni stubby holder not have a ute on it?!?! It has rabbits on it – I didn’t understand at all and was pretty cut, but I got it all the same. I guess you would have to actually attend the muster to find the ute stubby holder. Not going to happen.

But back to the riding – this part of the country is called the Long Paddock. Add to this, with one straight road going through it. I think there were two slight bends (not corners) between Moama and Deni. Maybe. It was amazing to be out there, but the riding was certainly different to the rest of our trip. I finally learnt today where the best place on the road to be is when the road trains are coming past you. Too far to the left and there is a chance you will be blown off the road, too far the right… well I never went too far to the right! Pretty much sitting in the middle of your lane and hoping for the best seemed to be the right way to go. Some trucks made absolutely no impact, but others had me wobbling around for a few seconds once they had past. But you couldn’t pick which one would do which. So it was kinda like a game, but not a very fun one.

Our next stop was Finley where we fuelled up and managed to grab a geocache. Today was the hottest day of our trip so while we were at the garage having a cold drink I checked the phone and couldn’t believe a. that we had coverage and b. that there was a geocache less than 200m away. Yay for that. We made a quick find and then got back on the straight road heading to Urana. This was probably the most mindblowing part of our ride – it felt like we were truly in the middle of nowhere. In the proper outback. We hardly saw any other cars or trucks so we were on our own most of the time. The land was completely flat all around, just dotted with the odd farm here and there.  We arrived at Urana mid afternoon on a Saturday so weren’t sure what we would find in the way of food or fuel. Turns out there was no fuel but there was a ‘cafe’ open. We dined on crisps, drinks and iceblocks and had a bit of a chat to the shop lady. There were two tables of local teenagers just hanging out (well the girls were hanging out, the boys were eating hot chips, fish and spring rolls). I wanted to talk to them to see what it was like living in Urana and what they did. Morgan said we had seen what they did. Hang out. I wondered where they went to school and if they did anything else. When we were leaving town the girls had left the cafe and waved to us, regret – I should have talked to them.

Where are we?

My main goal today was to stay off the major highways and use some back roads. Once we were on one of these back roads heading towards Lockhart, I started to get worried that I would run out of fuel. Where on earth were we going to get fuel out here? The signs were saying 108km to Wagga and I was assuring Morgan over the headset that I would make it. But I was not 100% confident. I slowed down to ride between 80-90km/hr, trying to use as little fuel as possible (with the Malossi variators, the scoots definitely seem a little more thirsty).  But I was worried. As we got closer to Lockhart I was relieved to see signs for a roadhouse, but still a little concerned that it might not be open. Turns out – it was open! Phew! Unfortunately the guy behind the counter (yes I spotted a Harley in the garage when I went to use the most disgusting bathroom in THE WORLD) was a complete tool. I always expect that people in these little towns will be friendly and interesting and I am then always disappointed when they turn out to be the exact opposite of this. Oh well, the fuel was good and we set out for the last leg of our journey today feeling more at ease and happy.

Wagga was just as I remembered. It was my task to get us to our accommodation and I was a complete fail with navigation. Because of this, Giorgio’s fan started working overtime trying to keep his engine cool. It really was such a hot day and we were so ready for a shower and some aircon. Finally we made it to our room and we tamed cold showers and cold aircon. Next step in the happy process was beers, pizza and geocaches, which were all found in quick succession. Turns out Wagga has lots of caches in close proximity which we found all too easily. We tipsy walked around town until it was back to our room for blogging and logging. This was our last night away on our trip and of course the weather forecast for the next day showed rain and storms for both Wagga and Canberra…

Click HERE to see today’s pics.

Of poor but honest parents, he was born in…

Day 15 – Dunkeld to Echuca

OK, so I have got a little emotional twice on this ride – once on the Great Ocean Road, because I couldn’t believe that it was the first time I was there. And also because I was so happy that I was there with that person, on that scooter, on that day. The second time was when we turned north/north-east from Glenthompson. The view was incredible – the Grampians and proper Victoria. At one point I looked to my left and saw a beautiful paddock which had been turned in to haybales. There was a huge dam and brown sheep and the Grampians were rising in the background. I was stoked to be there and loving every second of it.

Our first stop today was Ararat for fuel and stares from the locals. Also a coffee stop at Maccas (wow – how many Maccas did we get coffee at?!?) which again we couldn’t get on to the network. Give us some network Maccas – that is what you are good for! Oh well, back on the road and we were intrigued to ride through a place called ‘Ampitheatre’. What? Why is it called Ampitheatre? Is there actually an ampitheatre? We didn’t see it. Googling must occur once we are home methinks.

Then, turns out there is a place in Victoria called Maryborough (as well as Queensland). I was expecting just another fuel stop with a pub, but turns out this place was huge! But I think I still prefer the Queensland option! But that is natural given I am a Queenslander. Queenslander! Our lunch stop today (a very late lunch) was at Castlemaine. I was so excited to be here because I had sung the song so many times in primary school. As we rocked in to town, Morgan made communication with me and sung the song – as well as giving me some fun facts about Castlemaine. We rode through town and then back again to try and find somewhere nice to eat. Well, we found it. Its called Cured Cafe and we had awesome turkish – Morgan a doner lamb meal with garlic sauce, dips and salads; I had a falafel kebab with garlic sauce, hommus and salad. I thought their coffee was awesome, but Morgan didn’t rate it. Doesn’t matter, it was a fantastic meal, which we were surprised to find in Castlemaine.

Our next surprise was finding ourselves back on a freeway. For some reason we thought we were on kinda backroads today but it made perfect sense that there would be a motorway linking Melbourne and Bendigo… So Bendigo, awesome – we will be back. We didn’t stop because it was getting late in the day and we wanted to push to Echuca, but turns out the place is chock full of cacher hides which we NEED to find – as I said, we will be back. We spotted a couple of scooters, one parked up on the footpath as it should be.

So on to Echuca, turned out we were staying in the ‘Historic Port’ area of town and the place I had chosen was next door to both an icecreamery and a chocolate shop. Unfortunately we were too late for the chockie shop but the icecream turned out to be our dinner later that night. We did a bit of walking, enjoyed local beers and did our heads in trying to find a 4* difficulty geocache which was in a heaps public place with a very very awesome bit of camo. Once we had finally tamed it, we spent more time walking around the area finding other caches and learning about all the history. And trying to avoid being pooed on by the myriad birds – corellas and about one million of them. Then the icecream and back to our room to try and blog (fail) or log cache finds (fail) and sleep (fail). Staying in the historic port area of town on a Friday night, in such an old building, on the ground floor meant a very noisy time with drunks and holiday makers staying up very late. No matter – our room was cute and quaint and the shower was good so we were happy. Oh – the local beer was really good. Its called the Echuca Brewing Company and we sampled the Paddlesteamer Premium Lager and Murray Classic Gold – delicious!

The 1st Choice for Annoying Families

Tomorrow, on to Wagga Wagga. Ciao!

Click HERE to see today’s pics.

Where On Earth Is Dunkeld?

Day 14 – Port Fairy to Dunkeld

After a fine breakfast in Port Fairy it was back on the road again heading ever westwards – but not too far. Our plan today was to follow the Princes Highway to where it kinks north near the town of Portland. We picked up a cache or two on the way meeting up with some fellow hunters near Portland itself.

We spotted them approaching the likely position for the hide. When they spotted us coming near them they quickly hid the cache from view until I said, ‘Have you found it for us?’ We got talking after each signing the log from the cache. It turns out that they were from Sydney and a Navy family – what are the odds?

This area is, as you might imagine, very rural. It looks like they’d had a good season too as the the hay sheds were packed to the rafters. We made a quick stop in very small village called Stalkers Bend. We parked the scoots on the grass next to what was once the town’s pool. It was a part of the creek in which they’d installed a small dam. The edges and base of the ‘pool’ had been concreted and even a small area had been fenced off. It had all fallend into disrepair after decades of neglect but we were struck by how simple and charming the whole set up was. Three very large pines had once stood near the bank to shade the pool but they had been cut down. One remained on the opposite bank so we got am idea of what it must have been like.

The Pool at Stalkers Bend

On the road again, we tracked north to Hamilton for a lunch stop. After gassing up the scoots, we found a shady spot to park them while we fuelled ourselves up. Hamilton is a nice looking town which I’m guessing is about the size of Queanbeyan. We tried to get a couple more caches while there but failed on both attempts. In any case, the journey today was not our primary focus – it was the dinner we were looking forward to.

Dunkeld was our destination and it was but a short hop away.

We had properly turned the corner to head east now. To our left, Mount Sturgeon marked thhe sourthern tip of the Grampian Ranges. It’s an oddly shaped mountain – one end pushed from the ground while its western foot remained firmly in place as if the whole thing was on a hinge. Dunkeld itself was like the other small Victorian hamlets we had come across. Neat little gardens, turn-of-the-century cottages, closed businesses and the ubiquitous memorial swimming pool.  We pulled into the car park of the Royal Mail Hotel leaving the scoots on the footpath outside the reception desk. We waited for what seemed an age for a chatty American couple to stop chewing the ear off the receptionist before getting our room key. Our accommodation – it turned out – was actually across the road from the hotel. The back yard of one the town’s larger houses had been built out with hotel rooms all constructed in a similar vein to the parent house. Now – we had reserved a ‘cheap’ room, but it was the nicest cheap room I had ever clapped eyes on! We had paid the same money for a much lesser appointed room in Port Fairy that wasn’t a shadow on this place! We unloaded the bikes and emptied ourselves into the room, spreading out like we had just unpacked a Land Rover rather than two little scooters.

The Royal Mail Hotel is a bit of an oddity. The pub itself has been around since the 1800s but some years ago, an aspiring chef returning to Australia decided to build his restaurant on the spot and converted the plot to construct a large hotel, native gardens, the public bar, a bistro and the restaurant dining room. This is all topped off by an amazing menu and what Gourmet Traveller magazine has judged to be the best wine cellar in Australia.

We had long planned to come here and it felt as this if this was the whole reason for our trip. We opted for the full tasting menu plus the matched wines. What followed was ten courses of rich and sumptious food each matched with either a French or Australian wine to compliment the dish. I won’t reproduce the menu here as I will dribble on for another thousand words. We heartily recommend that you come here yourself. Make it your holiday – you won’t regret it.

And so it was with full bellies that we departed the restaurant for our comfy bed. I don’t think either of us will ever forget the meal we had in this place. The chefs (all on full display as they worked) prepared each plate with the same full attentiveness. The head chef inspected each and every plate that left the servery – often making small changes to the presentation. It was this attention to detail, plus the unique blending of seemingly mismatched flavours that made this meal so special.

Tomorrow – the Murray River port town of Echuca. Ciao!

Clicke HERE to see today’s pics.

A Great Road Near The Ocean

Day 13 – Port Melbourne to Port Fairy

Waking early on the Spirit, the scene out the scuttle did not look fantastic. A very angry looking sky awaited us and from what I could tell, a bit of a nasty wind. And so it was that we trundled off the ferry and headed for the Todd Rd service centre for some fuel and to assess the weather conditions. It wasn’t looking good. I checked the radar picture on the iPhone while Nikki paid for the fuel. There were storms moving across Port Phillip Bay and to the west of us – exactly where we wanted to be.

Not to be completely discouraged, we jumped on the West Gate Bridge and headed towards Geelong. At North Laverton, we pulled into Maccas for some breakky and to wait out the storm (we had seen some impressive lightning while on the road). I also thought that I’d be able to get some blogging done but it turns out that we found the only MacDonalds in Australia that doesn’t have wifi. There coffee was good, my muffin was tasty and their toilet was filthy.  A RAAF corporal came in to get coffee for her workmates and we were given a reminder that we have jobs to get back to in a couple of weeks – yuck.

The storm passed pretty quickly and we were soon back on the road. I’ll say at this juncture that I don’t mind riding in the rain so I wasn’t too concerned about it. What I really detest is wind. A windy day can ruin a fun ride. As we headed around the outside of Geelong we were hit by some of the strongest gusts I’ve experienced in many years of riding. By the time we got to Torquay I was in no mood for the Great Ocean Road. Gassing up again, we headed back out into the wind to find the start of the iconic stretch of tarmac.

As we got closer to the start, the wind seemed to die down a bit and we were getting distracted by the odd Thunderbird-esque houses that line the coastline here. Seemingly out of nowhere, the gateway marking the beginning of the Great Ocean Road appeared – complete with three bus-loads of Japanese tourists all waiting patiently behind one another to get their photo taken in front of the gate. We just pulled to the side of the road to take our shots before moving off again.

We were not ready for what we saw. The most stunning piece of coastline complete with cliffs, beaches, rocky outcrops, forest, scrub and farms. It was hard to pick a few single spotss from which to take photos because it was all just amazing. i wish I could have had a video camera running the whole time. At Apollo Bay we paused to let the buttocks recover and to get some lunch – and what a lunch! A small bistro opened on the stroke of twelve boasting a rather interestingly-looking menu (and odd artwork prints on the walls). We feasted on calimari and blue eye cod washed down with a mineral water for Nikki and an LL&B for me (perfectly mixed, I might add). The staff even obligingly charged Nikki’s phone behind the bar while we ate. This meal was fate – just what we needed after the complete hash of a dinner on the Spirit (I still feel sick when I think about it).

From Apollo Bay, it was back on the road to see the rest of the dramatic coast. We started to climb up the hills behind the town and were treated to a full view of the bay before retreating under the canopy of a rainforest. And that’s what we really didn’t expect – rainforest! This road goes from strength to strength. One minute you’re in brilliant sunshinee (still getting smashed by the wind) and the next you can hear bell birds as you daart through thick sub-tropical forest before bursting through to picturesque farm land with fat cows and full haystacks.

It wasn’t long before we were to come across one of the road’s more notable features in the Twelve Apostles. Beautiful structures to be sure but to get to them meant leaving the scoots on their own amid hundreds of tourists and we just didn’t feel comfortable with that. We did park at one spot to make the relatively short walk to the cliffs to get some photos before zooming off once more. Just before Port Campbell, Nikki spotted a likely photogenic spot in which we might get the scoots. This time, some fellow travellers obligingly took some shots for us and we regretted not stopping to have a yarn with them. Port Campbell was on our minds though as it promised to have fuel and we were getting low. Well, the fuel stop was something out of a Stephen King novel. A small dirty wooden shed adorned with number plates from all over the world. The mechanic eyed us suspiciously while his lovely assistant took the cash and made an entry into a paper ledger. Somewhere in the distance a banjo played. We left – quickly.

Hurry Up - I Hear Banjos

It seemed like Warrnambool appeared very soon after that which I was greatful for as it meaant that our destination for the night wasn’t far away. In Warrnambool, a strange structture dominated the vista to our right. I checked in with Nikki through our helmet commmunicators to ask her opinion. Our best guess is that it was Australia’s ‘Big Pickled Onion’ – if such a thing exists. Seriously thought – that’s what it looked like.

Port Fairy drew ever closer and when we finally rolled into town it was with a sense of great relief as we had completed one of the longest rides we would do for this trip. Port Fairy is a pretty little town and – as I learned while researching a geocache – boasts around fifty buildings on the National Trust. We enjoyed some great pub food (schnitzel and a steak) washed down with a local ale brewed in Warrnambool. A long walk followed (for geocaching of course) before icecream and bed

Tomorrow – off to Dunkeld and the Royal Mail. Can’t wait! Ciao!

Click HERE for today’s pics.

Heading North

Day 12 – Orford to Devonport

We had all these good intentions of getting up early and putting laundry on and doing some blogging and spending some quality time with the family. Most of that got done except for the blogging – apologies!

The morning went pretty nicely but we failed to meet our departure time so we had to curtail our intended route somewhat. Initially, we had intended to travel up the Tasman Highway to the northern side of Bicheno (home of scooter-riding Mayor Bertrand Cadart) turning west to take in the Fingal Valley – a very decent ride with beautiful scenery practically the entire way. This was not to be.

Instead, we retraced the path we had taken to get to Orford some days ago. This route took us back to Swansea and then west over Lake Leake Road to Campbell Town.

 Despite the assurances of Google Maps and our own GPS, there are no fuel stations in Campbell Town. Fortunately the scoots weren’t feeling too thirsty this morning and managed to amble into Perth quite comfortably. We stopped for some hot chips and a yarn with a Can-am Spyder owner and his niece. They’d had a huge morning already covering much of the North Coast (on a borrowed bike while their ride got new shoes) before heading back south to Oatlands. As with everyone with a slighty different bike (hello Gilera Fuoco!) this poor guy was subjected to another cocky wanting to know the basic answers that any fool could get off the net in about 8 seconds. ‘Does it go alright mate?’, ‘Do you have to lean it?’, ‘So it’s not like a real bike then?’ and so on until you just want to tell them to piss off. Nice people though and he managed to maintain his sense of humour.

While in Perth we grabbed a quick geocache. A nice easy find in some green space between a couple of houses. The slasher was busy at work so we had to time our grab between his sweeps. On returning to the scoots, we found a family of three looking them over. Now – we were parked on the side of the road at the entrance to a town and these guys had pulled over to get a better look. Of course we were nice – taking a leaf out of the Spyder rider’s book – and dutifully answered their questions.

At last we were back on the road heading north-west to joing the Bass Highway for the final push to Devonport. On the way we passed some of Tasmania’s better known food producers in D’Anvers Chocolate and Ashgrove Cheese. We didn’t have time to stop today but I’m sure we’ll be back. Arriving in east devonport we consulted the GPS and picked up a couple more caches before heading over to the dock to check in. The line wasn’t too long when we arrived which was a surprise. We had booked this trip relatively late and were forced to purchase the most expensive cabin on the ship. To this end, we expected to see maany cars, caravans, campervans and bikes waiting in line to board. This was not too be with only about half of the vehicle lanes filled. I have to say that I saw no evidence to suggesst that absolutely every cabin was occupied and am tempted to make some discrete enquiries with the company.

Despite the cabin debacle – the berth itself was quite plush for a ferry ride. A wonderfully soft queen bed, plenty of room and a larger-than-usual bathroom. We even got some nice bathrobes in which to while away the journey. This level of comfort and luxury was in stark contrast to the meal we took that evening. We had resolved to eat at ‘The Captain’s Table’ – the inaptly named family feedbag that everyone seems to flock towards the second they get onboard. We grabbed a tray and joined the queue through the cafeteria style set-up selecting a few different items. For my own part, I have not ingested a worse meal in my entire life – and I was in the Army. To stave off sticking our fingers down our throats, we headed for the gift shop and purchased a couple of treats for dessert before retiring to our palatial cabin for the night.

The crossing was a little topsy turvy but our comfy bed made it pass as if upon a mill pond.

Tomorrow – The Great Ocean Road!

When we can track down a proper Internet Cafe, we’ll be able to upload some photos. This is something the iPad is not so good at. Ciao!

Photos are ready! Click HERE.

You Can Just Taste It

Okay, so it’s been a few days since we last put some words down – but a lot has happened.

Day 11 – Happy Birthday Nikki!

A lazy morning today before being kindly driven to Hobart by Nikki’s Dad so we could attend the Taste of Tasmania Festival. Nikki’s brother Andrew was along for the day. Experience has taught us that things can get a little untidy after a few cheeky ones so we were glad to have a driver for the day.

After doing a lap of the stalls, we settled on some seafood for our first taste. Nikki and I shared some cajun calimari and some very spicy scallops all washed down with a couple of very decent bevvies – a Moo Brew for me and a sparkling rose from Josef Chromy for Nikki. I moved onto the pinot for the rest of the day while Nikki rather sensibly stuck to her rose.
Other delights of the day included bratwurst, marinated lamb, thai beef salad, sushi, tiny tiny pancakes and fresh raspberries. The greatest delight was discovering that one vineyard’s worker had decided to be very generous with her pour. Needless to say we attended her stall more than once!

We were also treated to seeing a couple of the Sydney to Hobart yachts – most notable was Wild Oats XI. Not the winner this year but pretty famous nonetheless.

Another great thing about the Taste is you always end up talking to someone new and interesting. This year we were lucky enough to meet some delightful locals and their relatives visiting from Adelaide. They were a fun bunch and we exchanged some information. Nikki got talking to the youngest lad of the group who turned out to be an Air Force Cadet – they seemed to click really well. One of the chaps in the party turned out to be a cameraman and he urged me to watch  his forthcoming documentary. I said I would mention it on the blog so here goes – SBS1 at 830pm on 8 Jan ‘Sweet Home Cabramatta’. Actually it sounds quite interesting!

The whole day was one hoot after another and was topped off by finding another Hobart cache before heading home (our most southern find!). Thanks to Phil for driving us. Sorry about the sore head Andrew but you’re on holidays and allowed to cut loose if you feel like it!Our next story will be about heading north again to meet the Spirit and our journey on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. Ciao!


On Island Time

Days 4 – 10….

There’s no need to rush in Tassie. Just take it easy and let things come to you. That’s the theory at least.

But seriously, we’ve been having a stress-free break and spending time with family and friends.

The scoots got themselves some pampering before a glamour photo shoot (see the link at the bottom of this post). Unfortunately, we also got the tops of our feet sunburned in the process! You see, even though the temperature down here doesn’t really top the scales, there’s a distinct lack of ozone layer above your head. Coincidentally, the American scientist who figured out that putting lead in petrol would stop engine knock also invented chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in an attempt to find a safe refrigerant – not so safe it turns out.

With Nikki’s brother and sister with us – geocachers all – we spent a day hunting down small plastic containers along the Tasman Highway. We took the scoots for a run while everyone else piled into the car. A couple of these finds we had discovered before so we let the rest of the guys make the discovery on their own as we looked on. After the second find, Nikki announced that she wasn’t feeling too good and headed back to the barn. The rest of us continued on and found a few more before taking in an exquisite milkshake at Kate’s Berry Farm. As Nikki wasn’t with us, I picked up a jar of strawberry jam (her favourite flavour) for her to enjoy later on.

One small embarrassing moment did occur on that day. As the car load of family headed back down the coast from Spiky Bridge (see pics), I stayed behind to get a few photos – and to have a wee. Despite my eagle-eye attentiveness, I still managed to get busted by a coach-load of Japanese tourists with cameras. Awesome. Actually, I don’t think they even noticed.

Our other days have been spent lazing about with some reading, a bit of sleeping and wandering over to the cafe for some coffee. We even got down to Hobart for a day – something we will repeat on Nikki’s birthday to attend the Taste of Tasmania Festival.  I’ve been treated to some fantastic bird watching just by sitting at the kitchen table! Superb Fairy Wrens love the bird bath out the back. They’re a bit too fast for me to get a photo though.

The scoots have spent most of their time in the shed but their time will be coming again shortly. We will be on the road again on 3 Jan heading back up the coast to meet the Spirit. Nikki’s brother Andrew will join us as far as Elephant Pass for some pancakes.

I’m sure a lot more has happened than what I’ve written here but I just can’t think of all of it right now. New Year’s came and went and I also got in some fishing picking up some tasty flathead (thanks to neighbour Rod and his boat). Speaking of New Year’s, I can’t recommend Bundaberg Rum’s ‘Reserve’ enough – a nice smoky flavour that I quite enjoyed.

We’ll hopefully get in another post this evening or maybe tomorrow morning to tell you all about the Taste Festival and Nikki’s birthday!

Click HERE for pics from days 4-10.