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Melbourne to Canberra via Bombala. [Ramble Warning]

Discussion in 'Roads, Touring, Journeys, and Travel' at netrider.net.au started by QuarterWit, Dec 30, 2012.

  1. #1 QuarterWit, Dec 30, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2012

    I was feeling enthusiastic and wanted to leave at 0700. Matt won’t get out of bed for anything before 8. So we decided to meet at 8.30 outside my place. The night before, bleary eyed from playing Far Cry 3 for a million hours straight I messaged Matt and said we’d meet at 10. Definitely.

    By 11 Matt had arrived, I’d peeled myself out of bed and we were ready to go. Through Melbourne traffic and out through the boring countryside of Moe, Morwell and Traralgon as we plodded along on the highway. This is only the second time I’ve taken this route and I swore, even more than the first time I took it, that I’d never endure the Princes Highway again. Ugly country side, lots of traffic and boring, monotonous road. On the bright side I had my new Earmold earplugs and just bopped along listening to podcasts as we went. Poor Matt, stuck with the drone of his W650 and here I was, learning about the history of the condom. D’you know some German company is developing a spray on condom?

    A few hours, a few shit coffees and a few cigarette breaks later MattB and I pulled over at the lookout above Lakes Entrance. Does he know there’s spray-on condoms coming? Nope. Taught you something today then.

    A huge pale blue expanse of water and coastline stretched out in front of us. Contemplated whether or not we could swim across to the other side. Leant on the binoculars and took some pictures while MattB twists a scene of beauty into one of horror, as our commanding position at the lookout over ninety mile beach turns his thoughts to the pacific campaign. As you do.

    "I don’t know whether I’d want to be a Japanese soldier, on a big coastal gun."
    "How’d you mean?"
    "Whether I’d like the idea that I could blow stuff up, or hate the idea that everyone was aiming at me."

    That launches me into some ramble about the first World War, and how the Germans, who placed much more emphasis on the machine gun than the allies, would chain their gunners to their Maxim Guns. They also would get better breathing apparatus than other troops, with the idea that they could continue firing well after the riflemen, and even their assistants, had been incapacitated or fled. MattB, good friend that he is, nodded politely and suggested we get going again.

    Finally, the scenery changes from dull, featureless countryside to waterfront. Fish and chip shops, rusting fishing boats. SUV’s packed with holiday supplies – bedding, boogie boards and screaming kids - replace shitty commodores full of toothless, unemployed bogans. A few hours of this and we rise a little as we get to Orbost.

    From Orbost we took the Bonang Highway north. I can’t recommend this road enough, and I’m a little surprised it doesn’t feature more often on peoples travels. Maybe it’s because it competes for attention with the spectacular Alpine rides to the West, or because it has some 15k or so of dirt halfway along. But it shouldn’t stop you. It’s still 90kms of twisty roads – on a par with the spurs, but with virtually no traffic on it.

    All that twisting and turning can be a little bit fatiguing so we pulled over to take some photos. On a private road, of course.




    After a stop for half an hour we got back on the bikes in the falling light and dodged a few wallabies. I get thrown about on the bike during the uneven gravel section, because you can’t stand up on the Bonneville because the footpegs might fall off. What a piece of shit.

    After the dirt, with the sun setting we hit the long, 110kph section. Each gentle crest opened up a different view of the country side, drenched in hues of blood red and orange as the sun set behind us. The clouds turn a little purple. I swear admiringly in my helmet.



    We arrived at the Imperial Hotel in Bombala. Park our bikes out the back in the undercover section Steve, the publican, has cleared out for us. He gives me some shit about riding a Triumph. MattB and I have a few beers, a meal of meat with a side salad of meat and we both end up thoroughly stuffed. There was no one else in the pub except for Matt, myself, the publican and his wife. The town school teacher – who lives in the pub – is away. The publicans give us some maps of the local area, suggest routes to take, update us on the weather and the road conditions nearby. The town is pretty, the beer is cold, the food suitably fattening and Steve looks like he’s drunk more than he’s served. A cop car drives past, one copper inside looking disinterested in everything. Steve melodramatically yells out;

    "Holy shit! It’s all happenin’ in Bombala!"

    Five minutes later the cop ambles past again.

    "fcukin’ hell, this’ll make the papers!"

    I fall asleep, phone in hand, googling property prices in town.


    The next day we woke up early, faffed about for a while and I poked around the pub taking a few pictures. Matt points out the bakelite light switches and the ornate lettering around some of the doors.



    Walked outside and while lubing the chain, noticed a very odd hum as I turn the rear wheel. Possibly a warped disc. Great. Steve leans out the window of the pub and yells out that my bike is, essentially, just a glorified postie bike. I flip him the bird.

    We rode out to Wyndham, down the twisties that were in terrible, terrible condition, as Steve and his wife had warned us. There were bloody great potholes in the road, loose gravel everywhere leading up to and through half-completed road works. A real shame because in good nick, it’d be a fantastic ride. We got to Pambula and plodded up the highway long the coast past Merimbula and into Tathra, where we took some pictures, stared at the ocean again and managed to not bring up war, human misery or suffering. Unusual for us.


    The road from here to Bermagui is gorgeous, beautifully surfaced and the scenery alternates between bushland, farmland and the beach. We pull up, get off the bikes, I have a smoke, go for a walk in the water in my leathers and marvel at how loud the waves are. Haven’t been to the beach in years. Matt shows his appreciation for the beautiful scenery by urinating on it.



    It’s a fairly average commute up to Mogo where I keep one eye out for an old Netrider Mod who works on the roads there. Didn’t see him. True story.

    The road from Bateman’s Bay to Braidwood was even better than I remembered it. Generous speed limit with fantastic, well-sealed sweepers up the hills was the highlight of the day. Virtually no traffic in our direction but the road in the opposite direction was backed up with traffic snaking its way down the steep hill. A long line of caravans and family wagons stuffed to the brim made a snail like pace down towards the ocean. I spot the occasional local, exasperated, sitting defeated, stuck behind the holiday makers. The strong rich smell of brake pads smoking accompanies us as we fly past them. Forgetting what brakes smell like, I worry for a moment my Bonneville is about to go on fire.

    Do that road. Great fun.

    The rest of the trip for that day – tedius and boring - prepares you mentally for Canberra. But here’s a secret. I like Canberra. I like the bad drivers, I like the twisty roads, I like the moribund night life and I like the stifling heat and bitter cold. Riding south through the city, I like the way that Parliament house rises above you and for a brief moment you’re in awe of the capital before you remember the fcukwits that work in it.

    We visit a mutual friend, his massive collection of classic bikes and talk about Matt’s W650. Our friend, who is also a shooter, starts talking about rare target variations of the L1a1. I get a little more animated and Matt, perched in camping chair, goes red-eyed and looks like he’s about to fall asleep.

    That night I walked around the caravan park we were staying in, theorizing that it used to be a barracks. Found what looked like the old mess, and then found the armory. I’ve been inside a few of these before. I tried to force the door open because the outside may look like a glorified tin shed but there should be a concrete structure inside with walls half a meter thick. In the dark I pushed and prodded on the door until I realize that behavior like this is probably the reason why MattB is on the phone to his very lovely wife and I’m single. Have a smoke, off to bed. Get a rude MMS off a girl. I send back something about finding an old armory in the caravan park I’m staying in. I don’t get another MMS. I fall asleep.

    The next morning MattB and I went our separate ways – him back to Canberra and me onwards to Sydney. I took the hume. Nothing interesting happened to me. MattB ran out of fuel and ended up pushing his W650 halfway to Melborne.

    More ramblings from Sydney, and the trip back to Melbourne are available if anyone is willing to put up with any more of my mumbling writing style.
    • Like Like x 6
  2. Mt Darragh road suffered damage from heavy vehicles when Brown Mtn was closed. Further buggered by heavy rain. It is a disgrace it is taking so long to repair. That road used to be a bloody hoot.
  3. The best ride report of the year. You should go for the double and get Matt to post up his version.
  4. Joel mentioned in a post that he had moved down to yarra ranges area. Something about a regional manager I think.
  5. Also, I thought you stopped smoking a while back qw?
  6. Ah, Joel has moved? I never met him but he seemed like a top bloke. I've been back on the fags for a bit now. Blugggggh. Thanks for the nice comment, Hornet!
  7. More mumbled rumblings please Quarterwit.
  8. ^^Err, ramblings
  9. How long ago was this? I did the road six months ago and of anything, it's gotten worse.
  10. Brown Mtn was closed (I think) Feb~Apr 2012.

    No work (that I'd seen anyway) was done fixing the damage to the upper section of Mt Darragh Rd until maybe three months ago. And that's been piecemeal and slow. There have been several heavy falls of rain, which have made the potholes bigger, and even caused a section of the road to subside.
  11. #11 mattb, Dec 31, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2012
    I don't have too much to add, but here are a few remembrances.

    On Tuesday night Marlon messaged me that he was all packed and was looking forward to leaving in the morning. I reminded him that we were leaving Thursday morning, not Wednesday. And so we did.

    I agree about the horrid little towns heading east from Melbourne. Why anybody would want to live out there.... Some of the coast, however - away from those towns - was stunning.



    It's funny how one remembers one's own musings as a little more intelligent: I didn't want to "blow stuff up", so much as "shoot the bastards"; is it better to keep a low profile but feel impotent in the face of the enemy, or to blow holes in him but be the one he wants most to hit, second to his strategic target? But it was interesting to hear QuarterWit's story of the German machine gunners. QW is a treasure trove of such information. He once appeared on The Einstein Factor with the topic, small arms of WWII. He lost to a large man in braces whose topic was The Princess Diaries.

    Orbost was a nice town and the real fun began from there. I am still unsure whether the pleasure was worth the hours of traffic and boredom, though the answer lies in the fact that I will probably take this route again if QW invites me (though I would not choose it if I were dictating a route, I would head north on good riding roads from the very start - up via Whitfield - and enter the Alpines by the Murray Valley Highway). It is true that the Bonang Highway is wonderful. A first class motorcycling road. And the final section was glorious. I am less given to twisties and am more a fan of sweepers, and this section gave me all I could want: winding, wending roads over bare hills and small bridges, sealed and dirt, amidst summer-coloured grasses and ancient granite. And such roads are perfected when graced by the golden hues of a dying December day. This is what motorcycling through the Elysium Fields must be like. Which is why I do not fear the hero's death that biking might bring.

    But death was not fated for me that day, and instead I ate a hero's dinner: delicious meat and gravy, with a side salad of bacon. And pints. And upstairs, beneath the crumbling plaster and tired furnishings, a constant hint of art deco and its better times. And off-street parking for the bikes. And $30 beds. I highly recommend the Imperial Hotel of Bonang.


    The second day was very good, and the mountain pass of the Kings Highway is quite possibly the best motorcycling road in Australia. That is a big claim, but I mean it: were you to line up some other popular motorcycling roads to compare, you could make one of those before-and-after Meth addiction posters.

    I only saw Canberra at night and left the next morning to get back to Melbourne for a birthday dinner. This meant 650km of Hume doom. That was 650km of supreme boredom, exhausting wind, police, and traffic like I've never seen. At every mega-service station there lines of cars for the bowsers. And lines to pay that sometimes led out the door. The bakery at Holbrook was so crowded that a substantial line led out the door and into the street! This was the weekend prior to Christmas. At Benalla I could take it no longer and broke free of the Hume to take the Midland Highway. Immediately I knew it was the right choice. But the Hume had not yet sucked enough from me, vile thing. I had forgotten at a Holbrook petrol station to turn my tap from reserve to main. I usually get 200km on main and 100km on reserve. I thought of this as I passed a no-name petrol station in the bush and decided I would wait until Bonnie Doon. I worked hard overtaking caravans and then saw a second bush servo, but pushed on knowing that I should have plenty of fuel left. I then mused: I would be very annoyed at not stopping, were I to run out of fuel. Splutter-splutter-pff! I stopped dead. Dry. Fuel-less. And so I about-turned and pushed my bike, in the stinking heat, sweating, watching those caravans pass, while smiling and laughing at the absurdity. Fuel efficiency on the Hume had dropped from 300 to 230km out of a tank!

    The rest of the trip was uneventful - Yea and down the Melba, then Yarra Glen to Kangaroo Ground and inwards - and I added two extra hours to what would have been my trip if I had stuck to the Hume. But I reflected cheerfully at how refreshed I felt. Physically I was exhausted. My muscles were tired and I had a headache that had formed on the Hume. But spiritually I felt that from the moment I turned on to the Midland Highway I had been refreshed. I can spend a whole day on technical roads and feel much more alive and energetic compared to even a third of a day on a mindless concrete slab. It put into stark reality the power of good roads to inject joy and calm into one's soul.

    • Like Like x 2
  12. Wonderful stuff, matt.

    Next time you must go south from Canberra, and have the time, do the boring bit from Canberra to Cooma and then enjoy the rest; Jundabyne and the Great Alpine Highway, rejoin the Hume at Wodonga, and then get off it at Benalla and do the Whitfield/Mansfield/Bonnie Doon section to home.
  13. #13 jrh001, Jan 2, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2013
    ... on the Midland


    Great stories and pics, thanks.

  14. There's three sides to every story, good to read two well written ones on this topic!
  15. Cool story and pics, glad you got a good run up the Clyde it's a brilliant mountain when it's clear - absolutely shithouse when it's busy though :)
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  17. I would vote that they just miss the boring bit called Canberra. Head from Bermagui to Bemboka up the Brown to Cooma and on.