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Melbourne to Mt Gambier via the GOR (pics and ride report)

Discussion in 'Roads, Touring, Journeys, and Travel' started by cragv, Jul 2, 2009.

  1. Day 1 - Melbourne to Mount Gambier via the Great Ocean Road (GOR) - intended route; actual route.
    Day 2 - Mount Gambier back to Melbourne via the Grampians - intended route; actual route.

    Day 1 - Had a reasonably early start and was on the road by 6:50am, filled up and good to go. Boring run round the M80/Ring Road and down onto the freeway toward Geelong. It would have been about 4 degrees C outside, but the wind chill at 100km/h really started to wear me down after about 45 minutes. I pulled over and maxed out my warm options, adding a jumper and glove liners to my setup:
    - helmet with chin guard (covers your chin with a small leather semi-circle - keeps cold air out!)
    - balaclava around neck and over mouth and nose (I have an anti-fog visor which works brilliantly)
    - shirt, jumper, RST jacket with winter liner and waterproof layer
    - heavy winter gloves and thin liners underneath (they're not much, but it all helps!)
    - synthetic tracksuit pants (quite warm) and my DriRider Summit pants (no winter lining)
    - big wooly socks (thanks mum) and my A* boots; trackies inside the boots, Summit pants outside

    This is my first lengthy ride in Victoria's frigid winter air - I've commuted 35km each way to and from Mulgrave last winter on a bike, but more than an hour in such air I have not done before. On this ride I was to learn a thing or two about body heat containment and the wind chill factor over an extended period!

    Exactly two hours after leaving I arrived at Anglesea, which is the next road after Torquay where the GOR begins. Had a quick cuppa and loo stop, warmed my sore fingers up and savoured being past the boring roads so early in the day.


    I kept on rolling and just enjoyed the road. It's a great ride or drive (yes, I said it) down the GOR, and I highly recommend going on a week day in the off-season. Only a few tourists are out, and they're either quite old or international visitors, both of whom are generally very friendly and happy to chat wherever you're stopped. These pics were all taken on the way down between Anglesea and Apollo Bay...

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    After stopping at Anglesea, my next non-picture stop was at Apollo Bay for a refuel (didn't need it yet, but even though I carry a 5L jerry can, I like to top up if I've used more than about 10L, as it keeps my options open for spur-of-the-moment route changes. Spoke to an old-timer about the weather around the next stretch of road, and he turned out to be bang-on with his prediction: it'll be wet and misty through the rainforest, but once you come out the other side it'll be clear. Nice. I followed the road after Apollo Bay as it wound into the rainforest and began to climb. I missed a photo op to my right shortly after the forest started - there was a Wicked Camper stopped at this little cutting where there was a break in the foliage, and a vast expanse of New Zealand-esque misty hills rolled out in the distance. It was quite beautiful, but I decided not to stop today - gotta save *some* photos for when I drive through with the Mrs sometime in the future!

    The rainforest led me higher and higher, into the clouds (GPS said 490m above sea level). It was foggy and misty, but I was fine for vision with an anti-fog insert inside my Nolan visor and Plexus applied to the outside. At the very top of the road I emerged at the small township of Lavers Hill, which had some horses, a pub and logging trucks. Lots of cold air and mist, too. I turned left where Colac Lavers Hill Rd terminates and continued on the GOR. Coming back down the hill, the rainforest ended abruptly with another missed photo op - a breathtaking scene of lush, green rolling hills, ocean in the distance, and a lovely black snake of tar twisting downward. Couldn't stop for photos; too busy riding!

    The scenery changed yet again, with rolling green hills surrounding a wet valley of grazing land. Lots of water and lots of sheep. Every creek I passed was full; a stark contrast to the bone-dry Melbourne water systems! This all ended soon enough as we got very near to the coast again at Castle Cove.


    The road continued to roll down toward the coast, and opened up to some fast sweeping curves. Mucho fun! Up next were the 12 Apostles and surrounding cliff areas. I didn't stop much, but took a few shots here and there - these ones below are from the first public rest stop immediately after the 12 Apostles Tourist Centre (which I did not go into - it was on the right of the road, and the 12 A's were on the left... unless I'm missing something, all I'm going to get at the tourist centre is coffee, souveniers, videos, posters and tour info. No thanks!).

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Stopped at Port Campbell for lunch - I would not recommend doing this for anyone else doing the same in an off-season/over winter. The shops are all fairly tourist-oriented, so at this time of year it was fairly sparse pickings. There was a little Euro cafe which served up very ordinary foccacias (I had one) and a small cafe/restaurant with $10 lunch specials that didn't sound too appealing! Some good did come of this stop, however - after dumping the second half of my sad and sorry foccacia in the bin, I continued out of PC and up the hill along the coastal road, stopping immediately at the first Scenic Lookout on that road (overlooking the Port Campbell township and inlet). I found this fully kitted-out Suzuki DR650, so followed the path to the lookout and met Colin (stupidly forgot to get a pic of us! D'oh!). He's from Scotland and was on Day 2 of his ~5 month Australia motorcycle tour! He'll be posting his RR on ADVrider sometime soon, so when I see it go up I'll drop in and say gday. We had a chat about his intentions and concerns... it turns out he hasn't attempted anything like this before, and hasn't even done a test ride with all his gear. He was fairly confident he had everything after really reading up on the Far Horizons/Iron Butt forums and ADVrider, although was a bit concerned about having possibly overloaded his bike. Time and experience will no doubt help him whittle everything down to the necessities - for now, he was just taking it easy and meandering down the coast. All the best on your Aussie adventure, Colin! It was a pleasure to meet you :)

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    A few more pics of this part of the coast (This is by no means a comprehensive record of what's down there, just where I decided to cut the riding and stop for a bit. Honestly, these roads in summer are terrible because of the chokingly heavy tourist traffic, but at this time of year it simply took a lot of self-control to behave myself. Awesome roads, fast sweepers, open gusty countryside, few cars. Bliss)...

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    At about The Bay of Islands, the road turns inland again. There are little coastal townships you can visit, but I was heading to South Australia today so didn't make the time to do so. While I doubtless missed more gorgeous scenery, I was still pleasantly surprised to find some very scenic inland views. As well as the wind farm, I found a place called Crags Reserve, so I thought I'd better visit that (had a great little road too)! Pics of both below..

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    After this, I accidentally took the Prices Hwy to Mount Gambier instead of continuing on the GOR. Put it down to taking the GPS's advice instead of stopping to consult my road atlas, which I brought for this very reason! Oh well, lesson learnt. This was my test-ride for longer trips after all, so I'll chalk it up to experience. Fairly boring ride after that (thanks to my route choice), although the road magically became safe enough to travel at 110km/h once I entered SA, even though its surface or size did not change one iota. (As much as I love Victoria, I think the speed limits are a little too draconian in places... but we won't go there on this lovely ride report, will we. No, we won't).

    I rolled into Mount Gambier, filled up at the Mobil servo (and managed to spray fuel all over the bike and my bag when I accidentally zapped the bowser's trigger as I was aiming the nozzle into the tank - didn't help that it appeared to be a high-flow pump, either), and made my way to Blue Lakes caravan park (Mt Gambier's Big4). $20 got me a nice little patch of grass next to a light and power outlet, a stone's throw away from the (heated!) kitchenette, toilet block and games room. I had the pick of the park as it was both the off-season AND it was freezing and wet. I think I was the only one daft enough to be camping at this time of year! My setup is quite simple - bivvy bag (Goretex sleeping enclosure with flyscreen) on a foam mat, with my sleeping bag and a towel for a pillow inside. 3 corners of the bivvy bag are pegged down, and the fourth corner is suspended, allowing the fly screen to be a 1 foot high opening. I used to use this little setup all the time (sans mat) when hiking, and have spent many a night away with such equipment. Little camp stove and billy ensures a hot meal, thermos gives me a nice relaxing cuppa afterwards, and a little block of dark chocolate to finish it off. While it was cold, I knew I'd be warm and dry when I hit the sack, which I did at about 7pm (it got dark at 5.15pm or so).

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Day 2 - I awoke at 1:36am to the steady pattering of rain and immediately noticed two things:
    1) There appeared to be a small animal perched on my groin area, and
    2) I was wet.

    The first thing took care of itself - as soon as I stirred, it got a fright and took off, whatever it was. Bandicoot or something, I guess. This did not concern me in the slightest, and if there was no (2) then I would have remained quite literally a happy camper. There was the issue of being wet, however. This did bother me. I was wearing trackies, boxers, shirt and a jumper. My top half was dry, but my ankles were in little pools of water, my bottom was quite damp, and my legs were a mixture of wet and semi-dry. My head was wet too, and I suddenly remembered I'd left my phone just above my make-shift pillow. I reached up and found it sitting in a shallow puddle of water. Bugger! I removed the battery and dried it off, then decided that since it was still raining and I was already wet, if I could make it to 5am without getting too cold, that was probably the best idea. In hindsight I should really have gotten up and moved to the kitchenette area, as there were wood seats along the walls and heaters! My sleepy brain did not process this though, so I just tried to sleep it out. I was just barely above shivering, but this was acceptable, and while I awoke a few more times throughout the early morning, I did make it to 5am - almost 6am, actually. Was very happy for the hot shower - I think I stood in it for about half an hour, just warming up! I've done a lot of camping in my youth, have roughed it many times, but this night stands out above the rest as the Worst Camp Night Ever. I guess since I was still able to sleep (thank you, exhaustion), it actually went reasonably quickly. I only spent about an hour in total lying there cold, wet and conscious. Small mercies! The bivvy bag has not been used for about 6 or 8 years, and is coming up to 20 years old. I guess the seams just aren't what they used to be, so it's time to upgrade to maybe a one-man tent before my next trip.

    Anyway, everything else looked up from there. All my gear was dry since I did come prepared with waterproof bags and covers, so once I was warm and dressed I ate breakky and prepped to leave. Rolling out at about 7.30am, I stopped to actually check out the namesake of the park I stayed at. Blue Lake is one of three lakes that puts Mount Gambier on the map. I'll explore the town properly one day, but for this trip it was simply a place to sleep (and I'd highly recommend the Big4 there - very well appointed and kept meticulously clean). A few pics of the nearby lake at sunrise...

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    Today I was again fully kitted out with my warmest gear. Yesterday morning and evening had made my fingers hurt, but frequent flexing and squeezing had kept them from getting worse. Today was much worse. Within about 15 minutes of leaving Mount Gambier my fingers were already in considerable pain. Flexing and moving them did little to alleviate this, and slowing down to about 85km/h or so also was of minimal help. In hindsight I really should have just stopped somewhere and waited a few hours for the day to warm up, but when you're out on the road, stopping is really the last thing you feel like doing. I stubbornly decided to push on.

    After about 150km I stopped to take a break. I couldn't feel my fingers anymore, and knew I really should have stopped a while ago. As I stood on the gravel next to my bike, I just kept my fingers wrapped in my hands and close to my body. When feeling returned, it brought a significant amount of pain, and this did not alleviate for about 20 minutes. The internet tells me this was Stage 2 of the 3 stages of frostbite - Stage 1 is frostnip (white skin, pins and needles, alleviated by movement, etc - had this on Day 1), Stage 2 is superficial frostbite (ice particles forming in your skin cells, grey skin, severe pain upon rewarming - yep, all three here), and Stage 3 is deep frostbite (hard skin like frozen chicken, high risk of clotting, gangrene, limb loss). Nasty stuff, and my foolish stubborn decision nearly got me in trouble. Right now as I type this, my hands haven't been hurting since last night, but the outer layer of skin is shot. I have feeling everywhere and the flesh is healthy pink again, but I reckon I got pretty close to doing even more damage. Before I ride north next weekend, I'm going to invest in a set of Hot Grips - I don't see any other way around this problem, apart from restricting my riding to between 11am and 3pm in winter!

    It was also because of the state of my hands that I decided to head straight home along the straightest roads I could. Only saved 100km or so, but definitely cut a few hours off the ride. I got home around 2pm, sad to have missed the Grampians this time, but glad my hands were not any worse. The final few pics here were of Mt Sturgeon (south of the Grampians, near the turnoff that would have put me back into the hills and motorcycling bliss, except I wouldn't be able to type this right now!) - and a random train, cos I had nothing better to do while waiting for it to pass.

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    All in all, this was a very enjoyable ride on Day 1; Day 2 I could happily live the rest of my life without repeating.

    My to-do list:
    - buy and install heated grips this week
    - invest in a one-man tent, or see if I can fit my (waterproof!) swag on the bike
    - inflate my tyres from 34PSI to 40PSI for my boring freeway trip to Canberra and then Sydney next week (Scott's advice when he fitted these tyres)
    - plan another trip out to the Grampians soon, so I can finish what I started!

    Thanks for reading :)

    UPDATE: Monday night, 13/7 - ride report will follow. For now, I'm ready to rock!


    Original Post:

    Hi guys, I'm planning to ride from Melbourne to Warrnambool (or even to Mt Gambier if the roads are worth it) via the Grampians on day 1, then home via the GOR on day 2. Am only wanting to be out for one night, and haven't yet decided on whether to grab a cheap room somewhere or just find a cheap piece of grass on which to throw my bivvy bag. The ride will ideally be sometime in the next fortnight, as work and weather permit. It'll be on two weekdays rather than a weekend (GOR traffic avoidance FTW), and I'll be looking to take scenic routes each way, preferably avoiding gravel roads (or keeping it to a minimum).

    I'll be on my trusty FJ1200 with road tyres. I have a fuel range of about 350 to 400km (with my 5L backup jerry), so I'm after some route suggestions! What are some great motorcycling roads to use on this trip? I'd like to do between 500km-800km each way, instead of going direct (which is 300km or 460km depending on the destination). Am going for scenic & interesting over quick & straight.

    Possible route to Warrnambool: here
    Possible route to Mt Gambier: here.

    Once I have the route sorted and the ride done, I'll update this first post with my ride report and pics so any and all who helped can see the outcome! Looking forward to the ride :)


  2. You'll find it very hard not to enjoy this revised route from home to the Grampians:

    Mike's suggestion
  3. Awesome! Thanks for that, I'll have a closer look at that in my road atlas tonight. Cheers :)
  4. You have to go to Halls Gap then turn right towards Horsham. Once the fun runs out U turn & back to Halls Gap. Repeat if neccessary. :LOL:

    Also if you want to check out a 1200 year old red gum have a look at Bilstons tree. About 5ks of dirt to get to it.

    Address is >> Glenmia Road BRIMBOAL, GLENELG SHIRE
  5. I second the to/fro x 2 or 3 along the Northern Grampians Rd from Halls Gap. Possibly my favourite road in Vic for awesome scenery up close.
  6. Thanks guys - would you suggest something like this, then? Lunch & fuel at Horsham or something like that.. (btw, I did notice I have the journey back-to-front - GOR is first and Grampians 2nd. I'll fix it when I get a minute!!)
  7. I wouldn't go all the way to Horsham, once you get near Laharum it gets boring so I'd look at doubling back then. I did a similar loop a little while ago except via Colac and stayed at Horsham and on the return I decided to go back via the Grampains.

    Plenty of places to put up a tent through the Grampains. If I remember correctly there is a camp area with general store just outside the green area on the map (on the Horsham side).

    Also worth noting a good portion of the run to Warrnambool is borning too.
  8. Unless you have business to go to Horsham, don't bother. It's a long boring straight road with trucks and the fuzz out looking for people speeding.

    You can eat lots of nice stuff at Halls Gap and the scenery is tops. Fuel in main street.

    Horsham has good food, but it also has traffic lights, traffic, nuffies in cars looking for somewhere to park and do the shopping, kids on skateboards, yobbos... everything you find in busy Melbourne, which you are choosing to vacate!

    Camping can be had nice and close to supplies.

    Damn good food at Dunkeld at the Royal Mail Hotel.
  9. Also, doing the GOR first and coming back the route I marked is a much nicer way to ease back into the real world than hauling down the FWY from Geelong. Just a thought.

    (Can you tell I am envious!) :LOL:
  10. Thanks guys, I'll avoid Horsham, but if I have time will take the first part of the way there (then turn around) for the nice road. Cheers for the suggestion!

    Also, this is a very good point. It won't just be the FWY I'll be avoiding, but also then the M80, allllll the way round, as I live at the end of it. I imagine that at the end of the second day I'll be coming through probably around peak hour, so yes, I think maybe I will do the GOR first and Grampians second. Good thinking, 99.
  11. Looks like I'll be heading out this week, work depending. Quick question after reading the ice and snow thead here... should the roads through the Grampians and surrounding area be relatively ice-free? I don't mind rain and snow, etc. but am concerned about encountering ice unexpectedly - I hadn't considered it until now!

    Any input? Thanks guys :)
  12. I have seen first hand the rotten icy conditions that can occur at night or first thing in the morning around Daylesford and Woodend, but if you are riding in daylight hours you should be fine. Not sure about the Grampians leg.
  13. Good enough for me. I'll be riding in daylight hours and will be vigilant in the early morning. Thanks!
  14. Well I'm heading out tomorrow morning. Even though it'll possibly be wet, and very probably be cold, I'm really looking forward to getting out of town for a bit.

    Here's what Day 1 and Day 2 will look like (although I may just stop at Warrnambool instead of Mount Gambier if I end up taking it a bit more slowly).

    I'll take photos and post back with how it all went :) - thanks all for the route suggestions, I'm really looking forward to the ride!

  15. I hope the weather stays good for you, those roads are a blast.
  16. Ride report is up - see first post for the story and pics!
  17. Great ride report Craig!

    Sorry to hear about your hands. I can safely say that the Oxfords are the bomb! Just hope you don't end up taking too long to heal. Chilblains suck!

    In terms of tents - these COLEMAN-AVIOR-X2-LIGHTWEIGHT tents seem like excellent value.

    Not really much point going one man - if you want to be able to hide from the weather and have access to gear, a little bigger is better. Helps if you are a normal build rather than being 2m tall and having a partner who is not far behind.

    You must find your way out to the Grampians though. The roads around Casterton are nice, but the bit through the hills proper is amazing.
  18. Ditto on the one man tent,you need at lest a 2 man or in my case a 3 man,
    the one man ones are just enough for a very slight bloke with zero gear laying on his side and not moving and in bad weather you cannot help touching the sides,get one with a vestabul for the wet riding gear,or do what I do now,stay in a pub if its wet
  19. Excellent report… I luv you midnight blue FJ 1200… IMO the FJ1200 are one of the best balanced and powered bikes Yamaha ever made… the FJ1300 is a damn lemon IMO being top heavy and out of balance… but anyways… like the other guys said… don’t bother getting a ONE man tent.. putting up a two of three man tent is just as easy and takes up SFA room as the one manner.. going 2 up I take a 6 man tent (lightweight) and its just as easy to put up as the 4 manner but the advantages are great!! On solo runs I use a king single swag.. I can sleep in it nice and dry along with all of my stuff :) …

    oh, but why anyone would travel throughout southern vic and SA in winter is a mystery… lol

    i live in warrnambool and even i wouldnt do it :LOL:

    ok, check this out... six man tent.. you can sleep in it, sit in it out of the weather and fricken mozzies etc (micro mesh), sit inside the front extension so you are outside but protected as well... bang out hte four corners and use three flex rods.. thats it and then just bang two more pegs in to pull the front forward... its like living in a palace to a lot thats i've seen :D


    btw... if someone could tell me how to do thumb nails on here i'd really appreciate it :)

    ok, thanks for the heads up with the thumbnail pics crag, seems to have worked :grin:

    this is from a solo trip that i did and how i carried my swag, an excellent backrest :)


    and heres a pic of the last FJ 1200 i owned.. a 1991 model.. the one that i had before this one was also the Midnight Blue model.. 1988 :)

  20. Thanks for the answers and advice, guys! Since I already own a good swag, I'll give that a go next time, along with maybe a small tarp to cover all my stuff. Should be fine.

    Nice FJ there firetiger - they really are a great bike, eh. (I had a look through the 'related' pics under your FJ on Imageshack and found this :LOL:)