At 7 am we land in Melbourne and take the direct route out of it. Without looking much right or left, we head through the city rush hour.
The first Aldi is ours – the ferry has cost us an arm and at least one leg so we are in dire need of pampering the budget. In the parking lot we find a relatively fast internet connection, so we call Heinz, who lives not too far away in Venus Bay. We met Heinz at a camp on the Great Alpine Road - that was almost 3months ago and he invited us to visit him at his home.
En route to Venus Bay, we pass Phillip Island - known for 2 things: a colony of penguins and for being home of Australia’s GP racetrack - both definitely worth a visit.
We soon reach and cross the island – it is not very big. However, we're too stingy to pay for visiting the beach where most penguins are nesting – the illusive animals leave the water only at night anyway. We decide to explore where the road leads to instead and lo and behold, at the end of it is another beach and there are penguin burrows in the cliffs too, so now we can see them for free. There is a footpath winding its way down to the shore from which we can watch the juveniles who are waiting patiently for mum and dad bringing supper.
As we finish the loop of the island, we arrive at the main entrance to the GP-circuit, but we soon drop the idea of riding a lap as it is ruined by the usual Australian exorbitant prices (a lap around the Nordschleife appears like a super bargain compared to this!). So we only treat ourselves to a sticker for the bike and take some pictures to prove that we were here, and then we go to Venus Bay.
It is nice that Heinz is still very German in his ways as he is just about the only one who has fitted a sign with a house number (he prefers to speak English though, because he can not quite remember all the words of his mother tongue anymore) and while we’re stood around in front of the House wondering whether he is at home or not and are we really in the right place …he comes running towards us beaming. “ oh good, we seem to be welcome then” and the first question he asks is how many weeks we intend to stay - in fact we had only thought of one or two nights, as we have rested long enough on Tassie, but then again if it makes Heinz happy....
So we stay a few days longer than intended and in long conversations with Heinz we put the world to right. When we want to take a ride to the nearby National Park (Wilsons Promontory) our bike starts very reluctantly, and then just to annoy us she starts to jutter and misfire after 20 km, showing all the symptoms we thought to have cured.
Liza stutters and coughs until she eventually completely dies on us and we are stranded without spark at the roadside. Oh great – this means we once again have to take the seat and tank off and then to fiddle around the cables without a clue and no idea on how to solve the matter. After a while we seem to have done something right – well she is running again, although still not properly, but at least we make it back to Heinz’s place.
The next morning, as we want take a closer look and investigate the problem with fresh spirits, we start the engine and .... the oil filter drops off!
This time we unscrew the whole fitting and Kev goes with Heinz to a car parts dealer - it turns out that we had a filter fitted that was just a tad too big all the time and we need one size smaller. So Kev buys an oilfilter with the proper screw thread size but when he wants to take it out of the bag in Venus Bay ... there is only the old filter in it. So again the two have to drive the 30 km back to the shop where the new one still sits on the counter – here we are, Chaos Team in top form.
Back in Venus Bay we put everything together and then we take a test ride ending stranded again after just a few minutes. For heaven's sake! Slowly we are running out of ideas and I just do not want to believe that it is the ignition coils. We have a spare cable which goes to the ignition unit and the Hall sensor in our box, so we unloaded everything again and take the bike apart. It's quite a fiddly job to change the connecting cables (the old cable looks pretty worn though) and now Madam jumps back to life and we do a small trip without problems. We now have ants in our pants and want to get into the Snowy Mountains, so we decide to hope for the best and finally continue on our way ....
The bike is packed, we say goodbye to Heinz and .... after about half an hour’s drive we once again break down without a spark in the middle of nowhere. Maybe we do have to consider changing the ignition coils now? With the entire luggage, tank and seat in the ditch we are searching for the coils in the depths of our spare parts box. Of course they are right down at the bottom of the box and after they are finally excavated, we have to realize that we have the wrong connections for them. After some skull scratching we consider what we now have to do, and so we take half the wiring loom apart on the lookout for a broken wire. Kevin finds a rather loose connection between the two coils, caused by a too tight cable tie and a wire which is not insulated properly - ok, let’s try our luck, we pinch the clamps back together and insulate the wire properly, then a tidy up in the cables, making sure they are not too tight and then, although we are not sure whether we did the right thing, we put everything back together and surprise, surprise, she runs. Even after several hours on the road we’re still on the move - every time Kevin slows down for some reason my heart skips a beat and I fear the worst, but on my questioning looks I get a cheerful thumbs up and slowly I start to relax a bit - maybe we actually really have found the cause of all evil.
In the evening we reach the start of the planned route through the Snowy Mountains and since camping in the National Park is extortionately expensive (59.50 dollars for a tent per night) we fill only our water canisters and then look for a quiet spot in the bush - which we prefer anyway.
The next day we travel on gravel roads through the mountains, stopping countless times for photos and find plenty of absolutely beautiful campsites along the Snowy River, the bike runs like clockwork, life is wonderful ....
At the end of the Barry Way, which was really as spectacular as promised, we stop at a viewpoint in order to make a 360° photo and then go to the next town, where we need to replenish our stocks, because despite Kevin's enthusiasm which he displays every night with his fishing rod, he has not yet managed to catch us supper.
We have ridden most of the highest roads that lead through the mountains of the Kosciusko National Park, at night it is very cold and if someone had predicted a year ago that we would be this cold in Australia, I would have laughed. We are extremely happy that we have brought a winter sleeping bag along.
We have managed to get lost in the network of narrow streets a few times already and are at the wrong end of a chain of huge lakes. I have the stubborn idea locked into my head to find a shortcut to the opposite bank, to avoid having to ride the entire way around. There are plenty of forest roads indicated on the navigation system that lead there, but the GPS steadfastly refuses to acknowledge this as roads and so I have to navigate creative again - well I've learned that in Indonesia abundantly ....
Whenever I think that we are now on the right track we end up at a closed gate and we search around through the woods for hours - sometimes the tracks are really more appropriate for 4 wheel drives and we have to fight our way through with difficulty. After a few hours we find ourselves again in front of a closed gate finally we give in - the “short-cut” has already cost us enough time and energy and just the ride back to the last town is tricky enough - so we resign to take the long way around the lake and to use the highway (of course I have to listen to that stuff about Kerstin and her short-cuts).
It is not far to Canberra now and we should probably visit the capital of the continent. On the way at a view point we meet again a German who moved decades ago to Australia and he is so excited about us and our vehicle that he puts all his loose change in our collection box and then when we want to continue he brings out his wallet and puts us a 20 dollar bill inside. Wow I need to write Kerry, she will be excited that her tin works.
Next, we take a break at a hut for hikers open all year for emergencies so you can take shelter from bad weather up in the mountains and a giant Toyota with members of a fishing club that are on the way to a sociable weekend stop next to us. Spontaneously they invite us to come by and pitch our tent with them. Kev is all for this, as he hopes to go fishing with the guys and to finally get a few valuable tips so that his efforts to provide for us with fishy food will be crowned with more success.
We get a euphoric welcome from the rest of the troops, but we soon see that with fishing, it will be nothing. On the grill are sizzling burgers and steaks and in the coolers lots of beer on ice - well - we just learn how Australian anglers party (which by the way is not very different from what we know at home).
After a night with campfire, fishing tales and a lot of beer, there is a hearty hangover breakfast at the BBQ and then everyone is on his way home – so much for fishing tips.
We also slowly pack up and move on. We find a small dirt road that takes us through another of the many national parks towards Canberra. Along the way we meet a Swiss couple, stopping several times at the same viewpoints. Of course, we start chatting with Doris and Urs and find that the two are also already 1 ½ years on the road with their self-designed Toyota camper. They also want to spend the night at a campsite just before the gates of the capital and after we meet for the third time Doris says, that this means we have to drink a beer together next time. When we arrive at the campsite Doris and Urs have already set up camp and wave at us with cold Victoria Bitter – what a blessing!
As we have not yet found a place for our tent and still have to build it Doris invites us for dinner and we spend an entertaining and joyful evening.
The night is not very quiet, all the locals are in a festive mood and sleep is out of the question until late into the night.
The next morning, Doris and Urs say goodbye, we decide to spend one more night here, so we can explore the city carefree and especially without luggage. We are told that there will be celebrations everywhere, because today is Canberra day (whatever that means) and we are very excited.
Since we do not know exactly where we want to go, we follow the signs to the Museum of Australian History first.
The museum is very modern, full of all sorts of entertainment electronics and very colorful. Here and there are interactive exhibits (someone has probably taken to heart that the modern museum visitors expect that), but somehow the result looks as if the designers have taken a course in consumer psychology, but they know the word fun only from theory and did not really know how to mix that with something as serious as history .The result are 3 levels, stuffed with artifacts but somehow we have problems to understand the meaning of it all - hopefully the whole thing makes more sense for Australians - for us a little more explanation as we get would be necessary.
After quite some searching we find the Aboriginal history in a separate wing and quite a bit off the main exhibition and even though we now really had enough we somehow feel committed to have a look at this part of the museum too. Not many visitors have made it this far and from those few only a fraction makes the effort to look at the videos and explanatory panels. The balancing act between facts and political correctness has the effect of being long winded and / or boring.
When we come out of the museum, we are certainly more confused and after a short detour through the center of the capital, where we look in vain for signs of celebrations, we make our way back to the campsite somewhat disappointed.
Canberra feels a bit like a test-tube baby, which was raised in a laboratory after birth. The newborn town has been fed with everything it required to grow up, but it has no soul. There don’t seem to live many “normal” Australians here, it’s mostly government officials and celebrating for them is probably something indecent. Anyway, slowly we start to understand why everyone on the way has asked us what we want to go to Canberra for when we told them where we were going….
Someone has told us that for the Capital Territory the rules on the consumption of alcohol are a lot less strict than anywhere else in Australia and that even hashish was legal here. I do not know if that's true, but if so it's only because you need something to make this place seem nice and no one would stay here voluntarily otherwise ... ..
We, however, leave as soon as possible. We actually, wanted to see the War Memorial which has been praised so much, but we can’t find it. There are only signs for the house of Government, - so we decide to be able to live without having seen it and head off as fast as we can - hopefully Australia has better places to offer than its boring capital.
We have soon reached the east coast and after a glance at the speedo, we find that we have driven 18857 km since Darwin and on top of that we’ve actually managed for the first time since being in Australia to be on the road for 8 days without breaking down - that's pretty impressive!
In the first national park on the coast, we find an absolutely idyllic and even free campsite - unfortunately there is no water - at least if one disregards the Pacific (coffee made with saltwater just does not taste right)
There are 4 occupied spaces and when I go begging for water (as we have decided we’d like to stay here), I note that 3 of them are German couples. We meet so many Germans that I sometimes wonder whether there is actually anyone left who still who holds the fort at home.
The countrymen opposite supply us generously with water. The two have also been on the road for quite a while, and they have toured Vietnam with a moped too, which of course provides conversation material. Then we take a walk along the sandy beach and the bay, we find the bony remains of a whale head and feel like explorers in an unknown world. The mix of chatting and expedition then ensures however that I have to cook in the dark again, which I hate, and then, just 5 minutes before the meal is ready it starts to pour down.
We still like it here, so much so that we spontaneously decide to stay another day if we can organize a little more drinking water. The small campground is only accessible over 20 km of bumpy dirt road through the woods, and it makes no sense to drive nearly 50 km just for some water. The couple who supplied us yesterday still have plenty left and as they want to leave here now and thus can fill their canisters with the valuable wet at the next petrol station, they are generous and fill our bottles. Happy to have a day off driving and to be able to spend some time in nature Kev gets his fishing gear out and spends a whole day in his element. While he is busy turning his lime washed English legs bright red, I cut my feet to shreds on sharp rocks in search of beautiful shells and stones as I have left my shoes behind on the sandy beach.
While I am rewarded with a cap full of treasures, Kev is not so lucky, he only catches one fish and that is too small to even heat the pan for it. Well, at least he had heaps of fun trying and later the pleasure to watch a few locals fishing and get some important tips for the next time.
At our campground there are quite a lot of wild animals romping about: 2 monitor lizards (or Goannas as they are called here) are fighting over food scraps, which I stirred out of the pot with last night’s cooking, a Possum sneaks around the table in search of vegetable left-overs, young Kookaburras practice their flying skills from the roof of the toilet and a Walllaby that is so full of fleas that you can see them jumping haunts me and my apple until Kev finally can shoo it off with a stick (just the thought of it makes me itch).
Our short break in this paradise is over much too fast and I had to charge the computer from the bike, so I can continue to navigate. So naturally Liza will not start. Fortunately, we can roll downhill and bump start her. Today we want to arrive in Helensburgh, where we have the offer to put our tent in the garden of the Snelling family. Along the coast we take the so-called Grand Pacific Highway, which, however, is quite disappointing really apart from the last piece, where you finally can actually see the coast.
I'm almost surprised at how well we find our goal and Bron bids us welcome.
Since we do not really know where we can pitch our tent and Andrew, who could help us here is on afternoon shift, we set up camp in the living room for the first night, where Charlie - the dog – immediately takes the chance and makes himself comfortable on our bed. Probably the aroma of Kevin's feet have anesthetized him, because he promptly leaves a huge puddle on our bed. Bron is beside herself, she says, he has never done something like that, and I tell her about the Holford factor which means that anything will happen to us that otherwise would never happen ... ..
The next day we spend washing our sleeping bag and clothes, put our tent up in the garden and the two men take stock of what has to be done on our bike and we can also unpack a parcel from home, which we have been waiting for such a long time. It holds spare parts for our bike and for each of us a pair of new Birkenstock Sandals - unbelievable how happy such small things can make you, it's like Christmas.
Saturday Kev and I make a trip to Sydney. We take the train to the big city and are both amazed - we like it here much better than we expected. The blend of old buildings and modern skyscrapers creates contrasts that combine to a picture that is more harmonious than you would expect. We take a trip to Manly and back by ferry (recommendation from Bron) and enjoy the beautiful views over the harbor with the world famous Harbour Bridge and the unique Opera House.
Then we sit in the sun with Fish n Chips while we marvel in the bustle of tourists from all over the world and street art in front of famous scenery before running our feet sore in the "Rocks". What formerly used to be the slums of Sydney is now the oldest part of the city and one of the major tourist attractions. At the end of a lovely day we enjoy a cold beer in one of the oldest pubs and watch the world go by. This is where everyone meets, from the sweaty backpackers up to rigged yuppies, tourists from all over the world, wedding parties, ...
We return to our friends in Helensburgh, with one of the last trains are quite foot sore and done in but very fond of this particular place of British / Australian history.
When we arrived in Australia 5 months ago I sent an email asking for someone who would refurbish our Bilstein shocks which we had to take out in Jakarta and we got an offer from Sydney Shock absorbers, offering a complete and free overhaul. I contact the company again letting them know we are here now and asking if the offer is still on and we are welcomed with open arms. I can hardly believe it, we can bring them both rear shocks and one promises us that they will be as good as new and we can pick them up before the weekend. we are not used to that much good fortune in one go.
We have planned to move on at Saturday morning so Andrew who wants us to meet some of his friends has invited them for a barbecue on Friday evening. So we have 4 days to work on the bike, I can take care of organizational matters and do some catching up with my writing on the computer. Kev is setting the tappets and valves, changes all the oils and the rear tire. It’s incredible, the first tires have brought us all the way from Waldaubach to Melbourne and the new tire is already worn on one side after 6000 km!
We got an email from Frank, he is in Woy Woy, on the other side of Sydney and as he will be leaving this country in 2 weeks, he would like to meet up with us one more time, so we arrange to get there on Saturday and spend the weekend with him and his girlfriend Karin ...
By this time we have managed to do all our jobs, the bike is fit and a lot lighter as we have stored a lot of luggage in Andrew’s garage. We are going to ship from Sydney, which means we get back here before leaving the continent and Andrew does not mind that we leave the things we don’t necessarily need in his garage. I have been able to do some paperwork and our shock absorbers are ready for collection. We really don’t need to pay for it and are like two little kids that had their Christmas wishes fulfilled - the shocks we bought in Jacarta have done their job all the way from there to here, but you can tell the difference ....
At the barbecue party with Andrew’s friends we get the offer to stay a few days in the holiday house of Arthur, when we get to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains.
The next day, the bike is again packed, Kev takes Andrew and the children for a little ride in the sidecar, farewell pictures are taken (we shall return though), and then we throw ourselves into the madness of Sydney traffic and make it back out on the other side. While this turns out trickier than we had imagined it to be, in the end we manage to land in Woy Woy and after some searching even find Karin's address, even if it is quite late now. There is a joyous reunion with Motofotofrank and Karin turns out to be very nice.
It’s Kevin's birthday the next day so we make a little trip into the surrounding area. We enjoy a beer at the Copacabana(!) as a treat to celebrate the day and I decide that if you want to go around the world you actually only need to go to Australia – you find almost every town and city from GB and Ireland (at least once), the Hartz mountains, Texas , Denmark, Bornholm, Roma - even Northstar ..., then places like Desolation Bay or Detention Point, Mount Remarkable, Fryingpan Creek, Banana, we were even in Seldom Seen .... and to top it all you find places such as Woodenbong, Tucka Tucka, Humptybung, Wogga Wogga, Manjimup ... ..I could fill pages (Buggarup and Coudyabringabeeralong we have not seen, but it would not surprise me at all).
We had only planned a joint weekend but end up staying 4 days in which we do a few trips around the area together, go swimming, bore and / or amuse Karin with anecdotes from our journey from Darwin to Melbourne. From 5 pm to 7pm is happy hour in the Woy Woy hotel where we often treat ourselves to one / two beers at a bargain price, but then we have to get back on the road again.
It draws us into the Blue Mountains. Actually, we want to look for a campsite, but then we realize that it’s not so far to Katoomba and quickly decide to contact Arthur and ask if it is alright to get to his place today. Since we do not have a mobile phone, it is a bit difficult, but in the end we manage to talk to him via Skype. We get the permission and detailed information on how to get in and no one else will be here until the weekend when Arthur himself arrives with a group that he brings to do some canyoning. We have now for 3 days a whole house to ourselves. For the first time since ...? .... I don’t know when! Sometimes you only realize what you’ve missed when you actually have it: privacy, not disturbing anyone, running around in underwear, a kitchen with a stove and then a bedroom on top of it! The area is indeed full of tourists (with the rat tail of respective stores and prices), but it is beautiful. The Blue Mountains with their deep gorges, characteristic rock formations, beautiful waterfalls and the many different shades of blue, which are caused by millions of eucalyptus oil droplets from the gum trees…. are really special. During the day we make excursions and walks in the evening we sit with a delicious meal and a cup of red wine in Arthur's house and enjoy the sunset, watching the blue hilltops turn red in the distance, and make the most of having the illusion of a home that doesn’t have 3 wheels, or consists of thin material.
Late on Friday evening, Arthur arrives with his troupe. 2 completely stressed young women constitute the vanguard - they barely have time to say hello and immediately get busy making their beds, pushing us out of the way in the process. The men also arrive a little later, but since apparently all want to go to bed asap so that they can get some sleep in before the busy weekend program, we also retire quickly after a brief welcome.
Early in the morning we hear them preparing to leave and although I was originally disappointed that we are not fit enough to join the troupe for canyoning I am glad that we are not part of their "Weekend fun" after all. Instead, we have a leisurely bacon and eggs before we also make tracks.
The landscape at first isn’t very exciting and as there is no need to navigate and nothing much worth taking pictures off, I can give free rein to my thoughts and ponder the fact that in all Asia we never actually met stressed people. There was a lot of poverty but nevertheless people seemed happy.
In the so-called developed countries, people are more stressed and don’t smile as much, even though they have everything they need to live .... and more besides. Maybe you get consumed by consuming and forget what life’s really about…..well, anyway, today we want to drive about 350 km to a national park, but then around 3 pm we get to Hill End, a small town where the world’s biggest gold nugget of all time was found (a rock containing 57 (!) kg of gold) about 150 years ago that was. In the following gold rush and the village grew from 150 to 8000 inhabitants in next to no time. The surrounding area got dug over in the following years. Today Hill End is a 150 soul village again, but conservationists have been working really hard to keep the historic houses and sites, so of course we get stuck here exploring the past and what is left of the day flies by. In the end we decide to find a campsite here to visit the old gold diggers gullies and tunnels tomorrow.
We are lucky enough to find a really nice place in the bush with simple pit latrines and a water tank - what more do we need? Maybe some power points to charge the computer for navigating, but we are in some beautiful nature, this is just perfect. Anyway we have no appointments or not have to be in a certain place on a given day so what’s rushing us? We can limit navigation to find a national park and / or campsite when we are ready to stop in the evening and just charge a little bit each day on the bike for that matter. Never again in our life will we have so much freedom so we do our best to really enjoy it while it’s there.
I make a delicious Chili on the camping stove and we even have a little bit of red wine. The cockatoos and parrots give us a concert .... Ain’t life grand?!
Our bike has not left us in the lurch for 4 weeks now, it drips a little oil from the transmission and the right cylinder sounds strange, but as long as she starts up and runs fine we just hold our breath and don’t get upset about such petty details (says Kevin ).
The next morning we awake early - when camping you go so to bed with the cockatoos and also get up with them again, and so we are soon on the road, we still want to look at a gold mining field, which lies on our way, the Golden Gully and there we’re even lucky enough to see modern fossickers panning for the precious metal, but it doesn’t really seem as if the findings are worth the effort, even if one of them dreams to be able to retire in 5 years with the fruits of his labour here - well, looking at his yield of today, one could get some doubts – there is still some gold to be found here but in minute quantities, and on top of that it is actually no longer allowed to dig here, he will receive a hefty penalty if he is caught… I think we will refrain from trying to replenish our travel budget in this arduous way... instead we just have a little look around and take some pictures.
The gully in the yellow sandstone actually really looks as if it’s made of gold in the sunlight.
Today we finally reach yesterday’s goal, another national park that is really out of the way. The campsite is free but apart from a drop-down loo there is nothing more, we have only one neighbour, a Dutch man who has lived in this country for a long time and we have quite an interesting conversation with him. He tells us what we have guessed ourselves before: this country has changed a lot in the last ten years – from a quite liberal “she’ll be alright society” to an over regulated nanny-state (his words).
From what he tells us and our own experiences so far we can safely say that there are more rules and limitations here than back home in Germany these days – and that is saying something…..
Next stop is the Warrumbungle National Park, which is only another 100 kms up the road – an easy target to get to. The Warrumbungles are some rather bizarre shaped mountains of volcanic origin and the campsite is actually quite luxurious with power points, camp kitchen, bbq’s, showers and whatnot…. We make good use of the chance to charge everything we have and go for a nice hike too.
We treat ourselves to 2 nights here before we proceed. Once again - or rather, as usual - we get held up by a morning chatter, then we need an ATM and a few supplies too. On top of that I permanently make Kev stop for photos, because there are a lot of really funny and original mailboxes .... Anyway, it's already afternoon when we are finally out of the valley and then on the Highway in a northerly direction. Our bike sounds terrible - I'm getting really worried, but as usual, my hubby dismisses my warnings and says - everything is good.
After about 50 km Liza starts bucking and spitting and getting slower and slower until we finally stop, the engine sounds dreadful. Kevin thinks it is the electrics again, but somehow that does not make sense what should be making this terrible noise?
Well it’s been a long time and one probably could say it’s more than due by now – we have to remove all the baggage, Kev insists on having a look at the cables under the tank and while he is doing so I decide to get one of our chairs out and start to study the workshop manual for clues to possible reasons of the symptoms
From a spontaneous inspiration (Kev can’t find anything wrong with the cables) I say, let's check the spark plugs and in fact, the right side is completely black and sooty. The motor is too hot to remove the rocker cover, so we retreat into the shade and wait. The heavy road trains, hundreds of air-conditioned SUV's and even a few motorcycles whizz past us. No one stopping and some of them so fast and close that the draft from one truck rips the workshop manual downright out of my hands and the motorcyclist who sends us a friendly honk makes me want to throw something at him. After3 hours of waiting we finally can work on the motor and when we take the rocker cover off, the cause of all evil is so clear that even we can see it. The nut on the engine bolts, which holds the rocker of the exhaust valve has fallen off. We screw it back on again and due to lack of a torque wrench this must be done by feel. The setting of the valves is now somewhat tricky, because our torch is not the brightest and it takes a while each time, until we finally find OT on the either side.... After that, everything is quite simple and at the first test run the engine sounds as good as new.
Now it is however quite late and not long until dark. Luckily, I got the computer up and running (that one has been playing silly buggers in the last few days as well) and I find a campsite in about 20 km. Although we have to rattle along a very eroded bush track all the way (hopefully it does not rain tonight, otherwise we are in a lot of trouble tomorrow, trying to get out of here again), we are however rewarded with a very nice spot with covered benches, a gas barbecue, a toilet, multiple (full) water tanks and beautiful nature - the best part is that within a radius of at least 50 sqkm we are the only human souls around.
Before seting up camp we have just enough time to climb the huge fire watch tower and admire seemingly endless forest from high above and a really nice sunset.
The next morning we are early on the road, for once, it has not rained so we get back to the highway without problems, but the first chance we get we turn off and try to find some quiet secondary roads again. Liza is going well, even though the valves have already started to rattle again slightly.
In the parking lot to a lookout point we meet for the first time since Mongolia (Frank disregarded) 2 KTMs with German number plates. A couple from southern Germany belongs to the offroad-bikes traveling Australia for 7 months. Of course, we have a chat, but never actually introduce ourselves. Quite strange, you can meet on the other side of the world and end up not even exchanging a name. Well, the male part of the couple immediately starts the conversation with the words: “ Oh a HU sidecar – I don’t like them, they are too heavy”, then he feels the need to educate us on the finer points of travelling light:” why do you need a table and chairs , you can make use the boxes instead.....!” Well - we are glad that our Liza is so well built, otherwise we would certainly not have come this far and we like our table and chairs as well. Then he starts ranting on about the Abos (apparently some have stolen a pair of shoes from their tent and therefore the whole race is to be damned…)
Anyway, the conversation, in which we, our bike and our way of traveling, are more or less subliminally reprimanded by the “light weights” ends with a down the nose:” "Well, it's a good thing that each has their own way of being on the road " By now we have little desire to deepen the acquaintance and gladly send them on to their own “happy travels”.
Because of the Easter holiday traffic, we now have difficulties to find a place for our tent because all free bush camps are already full to overflowing with domestic holiday trippers. In the end we bite the bullet and pay for a night on a normal campsite. Here we are crammed between motor homes and their droning generators and the continuous noise level never stops (it seems as if these people even have to drive to the toilets) so we pay for the dubious pleasure of an onsite pool, shop and playground not only with our money but also with our sleep.
We are now on the so-called Waterfall-way which leads towards the coast and Coffs Harbour. Actually, we were looking forward to a few stops at beautiful waterfalls and also want to look at Cathedral Rock, but the sky has opened its locks and instead of making pictures of rocks, on which a defined amount of water falls down to the valley in picturesque way, it is chucking down in buckets all the way. We feel as if we had taken a shower under each waterfall in full gear, at least we are that wet. There is no way we stop anywhere for photos (you can’t see a thing anyway), so we get our heads down, try to ignore the clammy feeling and head as fast as possible to Coffs Harbour to a friend who has invited us (we met in Dilli) and to a dry place.
We spend the whole Easter weekend at Pete’s and thereby have a lot of fun. We have lots to talk about, because it is now already half a year ago that we met in East Timor.
For 2 days It pours down continuously until we finally can go out of the house again and have a wee look around the place.
Coffs Harbour is known for its surfing beach and the numerous banana plantations… and then there is the "Big Banana", an oversized plastic banana that doesn’t really impress us .... Australians, however, like huge plastic sculptures, there is the Big Lobster, the Big Roo, Big Pineapple, etc. - Well if they like it…. No worries mateys…..
We had planned to leave on Tuesday already, but Peter convinces us to stay one extra day (I think he enjoys being fed properly for once), but then we have to go, because we do have another appointment this week ... .in Queensland.
We met Mark and Cathy in Cambodia almost 1 ½ years ago and really only briefly, because Mark sketched our bike for maybe 20 mins before the two of them had to catch a bus, but they invited us to come and stay with them when we got to the area. So when we had the first chance we checked with them if this invitation was still valid - well, it is and Cathy is a nurse too, so she’ll be working all sorts of funny hours - but this week she is on vacation. So of course we would like to take advantage of that in order to spend some time with both of them!
Mark and Cathy live not far from the border of Queensland and NSW, on the western side of the Great Dividing Range in a rural area, where the nearest neighbor is visited by car, and the nearest shop is 30 km away. Although our GPS finds the road and indicates the place where the house should be, when we reach the position of the checkered flag, there is neither a building nor a driveway. We decide to take the next left, which leads to a house and ask – this is an area where everyone should know everyone!
A woman is standing in the garden and waves at us happily. She says: "You have to be Cathy and Mark's friends, do you want to come in for a brew? I'm Cathy's mother." It turns out that if we had gone on only about 3 km, we would have found the right driveway on our own, because it has a large sign where you can read in large letters, who lives here.
It is an absolutely stunning place, Mark and Cathy have designed their house to their own visions and built it mainly from used and recycled materials. It consists of two separate hexagons (they call them the pods) connected by one roof and a common veranda from which one has a great view, onto remote mountains and valleys.
We are received so warmly, as if we were old friends and not a one-hour holiday acquaintance of ages ago.
The first question is: "How long will you stay", but not because they want to get rid of us asap, but to see whether we should be better accommodated in the guest room or in the shed. Daring, I ask if it would be okay if we stay a little longer, because I have the opportunity, to possibly publish 3 Travelogues in various motorcycle magazines and need some time and air for writing. We would have loved to try to find a fruit picker job in this area, but unfortunately we are too old for a work visa ... ..
Immediately, it is decided that we should live in “the shed”. Our little house consists of one room, but with everything you need and it even has its own outhouse - we are completely blown away! There are about 20 chickens and 2 geese that live happily here, a garden and plenty of space.
Mark is in the process of insulating the roof in one part of the house and then to put sheets of corrugated iron on the walls and ceilings and Kev is in his element - he can help.
We stay here for 12 days and feel very much at home in the small hut, which is really cosy. We get to know friends and family of the two, I accompany Cathy to stretching class, manage to write, 3 articles (2 in German, 1 in English) sort the pictures and choose the best ones for the magazines (that doen’t sound like much work, but just for 1 of the articles I have to sort through about 6000 photos and then work them over plus title them all) and the two men have almost finished their job at the house.
It's so beautiful here, we could stay forever, but we still have at least 5,000 kilometers left to ride and there is still soo much to see. In the end we have to make ourselves leave - visa time is ticking and the last month of it is reserved for organizing the shipment of our bike, maintenance and paperwork.
Before we leave, however, there is a family gathering and party on the agenda. Cathy and I spend an entire day in the kitchen conjuring all sorts of international delicacies (I’d love to show off a bit of German cuisine). While we are in town, shopping for the ingredients, Cathy unexpectedly also buys a new Kindle ebook for us (I had told her that mine has long been a victim of bad roads in Russia). There is no talking her out of it, when I try Cathy only laughs at me and says: “Well try stopping me!” I am stunned, not only have we been fed and housed and made to feel like part of the family, now she also buys presents for us…., at least I can stop her from buying something for Kevin on top of it all – the e-book will do for both of us…. (at least that is what I think)!
On the last morning, before we set off Kevin finally manages to take the two of them for a test ride in the sidecar with the result, that Mark says: "Well, at least I know now where my earnings from haymaking will go this year!"
The departure from these wonderful people is difficult for us and then just as we are about to set off, Cathy gives me an envelope with the words: “It is only a farewell card, open it later ...” in the evening at a campsite we read the heartfelt words of our new friends and then we have to find that this stubborn woman has put money in the envelope (for Kevin’s present)! Again the tears roll down, it is just unbelievable how much kindness we find.