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My first motorcycling holiday : Sydney to Melbourne and back

Discussion in 'Roads, Touring, Journeys, and Travel' started by neirbo, Mar 10, 2010.

  1. I thought I’d share with you my first motorcycling holiday. Originally this had been planned to be with a group of friends and we were going to go across to Tasmania and take in the roads there. Planning being what it isn’t, that went out the window and I headed off on my own after a couple of rather stressful weeks at work. My aims in doing this ride were to see some of south eastern Australia, to get to know my (reasonably) new bike better (we’ve been together since October 2009; 2009 Triumph Sprint ST 1050 Graphite), to start to cross off the ‘top 100 rides’ in my HEMA Motorcycling Atlas, and to relax and unwind from work. At no time did I want the pressure of 1,000km days (although I wouldn’t hesitate to do them in a car), and I wanted to see a bit of the towns that I was passing through. Importantly I did not want to be ‘in transit’ after about 6pm when light is fading, and generally I don’t do early mornings (before 8am). This was to be my holiday, my way, in my time. You may, if you read on, have opinions about other ways you would have gone, time you would take to do certain roads etc, and that’s great – go do it yourself and tell us about it.

    This is my trip:

    Day 1, Sydney to Batemans Bay
    Total Distance: 336km
    Total Fuel: 19.5lt
    The day got off to a slow start taking about 30mins to get just 5km from home. I thought I’d left leaving late enough that I would miss the worst of peak hour, but seems I caught much of it. Once I got out of Sydney it was much nicer on the road and I started feeling good about the ride. Sydney to The Gong is something I’ve done before, usually on the way to Macquarie Pass and Kangaroo Valley, but today I knew there wouldn’t be time for these little side adventures. I had a destination in mind and needed to be there (having pre-booked accommodation) and wanted to preserve my ‘not-quite-as-bike-fit-as-I’d-like-it-to-be’ arse. Also it had been a while since I’d done a decent long ride and never before have I had so much stuff with me. Both panniers full, tank bag full, and I packed a tail bag with emergency equipment (first aid kit, air compressor, puncture repair kit and some other small stuff like a sharp blade, pliers, gaffer tape etc).

    My bike just before departure:

    An uneventful ride, I arrived in Batemans Bay mid afternoon and headed for “Surfers Beach” where I had a bit of late lunch, enjoyed the view and answered some work emails and calls – I knew this ‘holiday’ was not going to be work-free for long. The evening was spent with dinner at a pizza place overlooking the bay, and sleep in a cheap(ish) Motel, with blue UV light streaming into the bathroom.

    Day 2, Batemans Bay to Eden
    Total Distance: 366km
    Total Fuel: 20.5lt
    I started the morning with a coffee at the local bakery having refueled the night before. I don’t really consider myself a ‘coffee snob’ but I do like good coffee – I drink it black, so it has to have good taste because there is no milk to cover up that awful burnt taste that so often appears when a novice is let near an espresso machine. I even packed some of those ‘coffee bags’ as a just in case precaution, having also considered the option of taking my own plunger and ground coffee.

    I had been worried about the road south as the previous two weeks of rain in NSW had apparently closed the Princes Highway. I stopped in the at the local police station and asked their advice on heading directly south towards Bega, or heading up the Kings Highway towards Cooma, then turning south. Neither impressed the police as options and I kind of got a ‘just turn around and go back where you came from’ look from the terribly enthusiastic policeman that answered my questions with what I can only describe as the least animated response I have ever seen. Again, a mostly uneventful ride towards Bega, though the scenery at the coast was fantastic. I’m sorry I didn’t take any photos from here because they would have been worth it. In my defence it was a bit hazy. Before Bega I turned West and headed for the Monaro Highway and up Brown Mountain (for those checking this on their HEMA Australian Motorcycling Atlas (3rd Edition), in the top 100 rides version this is number #17). I stopped briefly before (east of) Bemboka to take in the amazing greenery, and again in Bemboka to take a look at some historical stuff about a great-great-great-great uncle who had come over from South Australia after being shipwrecked and set up home in this part of the country. Brown Mountain was great, although the roads could use some flattening out – the corrugations make for a bit of a rough ride in places, especially on corners. Well worth the effort though.

    That view east of Bemboka: [​IMG]

    My bike taking a bit of a rest, at that view east of Bemboka: [​IMG]

    At the Monaro, I turned south and headed for Bombala where I had some lunch and refueled. Going further south I turned East towards the coast on Mt Imlay Rd (HEMA Ride #43 in part, #26 in full]. At this turn I also discovered that the life of my iPod was coming to an abrupt end and I would soon be down to tunes from my iPhone only (thankfully both loaded with the same music and playlists before I left home). This road was truly amazing – and I had nothing to fear with the logging trucks on the road. No cars to be seen at all. This was mostly big sweeping bends and generally pretty good vision around them. You’ll want to do this road more than once!
    The evening was spent in Eden at another Motel, this time without the blue UV light. I even took a swim in the hotel pool after such an enjoyable day. The view south from the look out reminded me so much of the Australian “Tomorrow” series of books by John Marsden, especially with a naval vessel trawling around the bay.

    Day 3, Eden to Cowes
    Total Distance: 576km
    Total Fuel:29.8lt
    Again, having filled up the night before I was able to load the bike quickly and hit the road pretty early – my pacing goal was Lakes Entrance for lunch and Cowes by 5pm. I stopped for coffee in Cann River as I was starting to feel the pain of a couple of continuous days on the bike. Back on the bike I was in Lakes Entrance by about 11.30am giving me enough time to fill up before grabbing some lunch and a couple of snaps of the water.


    The road from Eden had been pretty typical of what one has come to expect from Highway 1 – not terribly interesting. The benefit to this however is big wide curves that require little effort to lean the bike over and get around, and when the time comes to overtake there is good visibility and generally little need to speed up for it, just pull out and keep going. Being the A1 the road surface is also in pretty good quality, although as with every other road on this trip, I did get stopped for road works. I took the A1 to Bairnsdale then Sale, then switched to the A440 (South Gippsland Highway) refuling in Yarram, followed the road to Koonwarra (HEMA ride #57), took a back road across to B460, went through Inverloch and Wonthaggi, then caught sight of Phillip Island.

    I took a break after I arrived on the Island at the information building – more so to refresh my legs before trying to navigate what was suddenly a ‘metropolis’ in comparison to some of the towns I had been through. I also took the opportunity to weigh up booking a hotel online or just fronting up. I checked the online price so I knew that the walk up price would be good or bad – and got a better deal by just walking up and requesting a room. The lady at the counter apologized that she had no ocean view rooms left, and I said I didn’t care too much for the view, I just wanted to a room with a soft bed and hot running water. Sometimes, I’m easily pleased. To my great shock eating on the island was far more expensive than I could possibly have imagined. I was knowingly a week earlier than the superbikes so I had expected that prices would be at ‘normal’ rather than ‘tourist’, but alas no. Anyway, if you like Italian (er, pizza or pasta) you’ll love eating in Cowes, just remember to take more cash than you expected. I avoided penguins and sea lions – having witnessed several tourist buses and being adverse to the smell of aged tourists.

    Day 4, Cowes to Melbourne
    Total Distance: 150km
    Total Fuel:8.3lt

    Cowes Beach at sunrise: [​IMG]

    Regretfully I had not filled up the night before, but it wasn’t too much of an issue to do it before heading to the track to be a little bit of a tourist. Impressed by the whole set up, I was disappointed that I was hundreds of meters from the actual track and couldn’t do my own victory lap – at least at Bathurst you can take your own tour of the track, even if it is at 60kmph. Then I headed North towards Melbourne (A420 & M420) and joined the throng of motorists (mostly B-Doubles) on the M1, but was overjoyed at being able to use this one road to get right into the CBD (Exhibition Street) without the need to fire up the GPS and navigate suburbia. I lunched with some colleagues and checked into my accommodation mid afternoon – a glorious weekend ahead.

    Days 5 and 6 in Melbourne
    I spent the first of my two rest days without touching the bike. I had meant to lube the chain the night I got in, but didn’t. Oh well, guess it means I have to at least take it out a bit to get the chain warm on day 2. On day 2 in Melbourne I did a few laps down Punt Rd to St Kilda and mixed it with the local Japanese bikes and Harleys on Acland Street.

    Sunday evening just north of St Kilda:
  2. Day 7 Melbourne to Omeo
    Total Distance: 407km
    Total Fuel:21.3lt
    I woke Monday morning to a slightly wet bike and the expectation that the grey sky would clear to blue like it had for the last few – not to mention warm up a bit! I hit the road (M1) heading east towards Traralgon where I had some breakfast, and refueled in Sale. Thankfully no rain, but I wasn’t far behind the cloud that was leaving a lot of water on the road. The fairing did a pretty good job at keeping me dry though and the heat from the engine kept my legs warm enough that any water was soon evaporating. I stopped for a brief break on the east side of Bairnsdale, before heading north towards Omeo. Before long I had two bike headlights in my mirrors that sat behind me at a comfortable distance all the way to Omeo.

    What an amazing piece of road this is! (Ride #47 in the HEMA) It reminded me of the north end of the Putty Road (NSW; HEMA ride #31) with a mix of tight and long bends and sitting just above a river – actually the river reminded me a lot of the west coast and alpine area of the south island of New Zealand. The two riders who had been behind me pulled in next to me in front of the hotel I was staying at, only to disappear quickly. Disappointed, I headed inside and checked into my room. After a great coffee in the bakery across the street, the two riders turned up again (on only one bike this time) and headed into the front bar of the pub the same time I was headed in there. We had a great chat for a while and I learned that they were a couple who had come over from NZ to ride some of the east coast. I pointed that a few of my favourites out of Sydney and we parted company. I had dinner at the pub and took a couple of snaps around town.

    The pub I stayed at: [​IMG]

    The local court house: [​IMG]

    Day 8 Omeo to Cooma
    Total Distance: 494km
    Total Fuel: 26.8lt
    Having taken in the bottom end of the Great Alpine Way I was looking forward to the rest of it. The ride up to Mt Hotham was truly spectacular – words don’t really do the experience any justice.

    A self portrait at Mt Hotham (glad I packed the jacket liner): [​IMG]

    My ride down the north side of the mountain was pretty slow with at first a lot of cross wind and later as the road got twisty more and more and more leaf litter and bark on the road. I wished that the surface of the road had been cleaner so I could have picked up the pace, but I didn’t want to push things not really having a feeling of tyre temperature and the shadows hiding some at times larger branches across the road.

    By about 20km south of Bright, those two bikes appeared behind me again this time overtaking and sitting just in front. I was more than happy to let another bike (in this case two) lead for a bit, and just follow someone else. I turned off just before Bright and headed across to Mount Beauty and a glorious and yet all too short mountain climb overlooking an amazing valley. The other two had kept going towards Bright. The ride down was just as much fun. I turned north and road towards the great Murray River. This road is in pretty good condition and sits between two huge mountain ranges on rolling green cow pastures. There was nothing offensive about this road (other than some road works at the north end) and this is where I started to encounter what seemed like every bike from NSW and QLD heading for Phillip Island. I really started to feel like the odd one out, but waved to everyone and even gave a bit of a wish for a safe journey for each and everyone of them.

    I lunched in Tallangatta and also re-fueled here. Not knowing the condition of the road through Kosciuszko National Park, I topped up the fuel again at Corryong (HEMA ride #53) and turned south (HEMA #15). Nice road, although a little narrow in places for my liking, and the speed limit seemed a little slow at times. I stopped at the bottom at Tom Groggin rest area. I was grateful for having gotten off the bike for a pit stop as when I got back onto the road I was stopped by roadworks, and we travelled in escorted convoy up the mountain at a rather slow pace, not opening up until Thredbo. I did a quick lap of the ski village and then pressed on to Jindabyne where I stopped for a drink and a quick snack. Back on the bike I arrived in Cooma around 5.30pm and checked into a pub – which had a garage out the back for the bike (although it was filling up fast with bikes heading south). I met a few guys heading south here including one who had his eye on my left front panel after having had a minor accident earlier in the day. Thankfully his Sprint is Blue and mine is Silver.

    I sent a short and sweet email to a friend from Omeo: “I’ve decided to rename the Great Alpine Way the Bloody Fantastic Alpine Way.” What a ride!

    Day 9 Cooma to Dubbo
    Total Distance: 556km
    Total Fuel: 27.25lt
    My plan was to ride to Canberra for breakfast, check into a hotel and spend the day in the galleries and being a tourist. A short day, and a nice hotel bed for my final night on the road. I got to Canberra ok and had a great breakfast, but couldn’t find a hotel room for under $500 a night (I really should have booked ahead for this one). Reviewing my options over another coffee and staring long into my map of central NSW, I decided the best option was to abandon my plans and head north – north to Dubbo.
    I note here that central Canberra is the only place on the entire trip that I came close to being taken out by another road user. I pulled up at a set of lights, to the left of the right wheel track, in the left lane, and had an old, old man decide to drive up the inside of me. Thankfully I was at a standstill at the time and he was in something the size of a shoe box. I beeped the horn and he looked rather startled. He wound down the window and hurled a mouth full of abuse about cutting up the inside of me and there only be one lane. I’m not sure if he heard me properly, but he waved an apology and reversed the car as much as he could to get behind me. I’m sure he said something but the music in my ears was too loud to hear anything he tried to say. Apology accepted – lets get on with life.

    The beauty of travelling by yourself is the ability to change plans at the last moment – to look at a map, pick a town and work out a route to get there – then actually doing it. I’ve talked about a couple of places out this way with colleagues for years, but have never bothered to cross the sandstone wall explore this part of NSW. I decided the route would be north to Yass, then a little west to Young, Grenfell, Forbes, then follow the Newell Highway to Parkes and finally Dubbo. I refulled in Yass, then Parkes and stopped off to see the radio telescope. Highways are highways and this one is really no different, but the scenery does change and proved a distinct contrast to what I had been through in the alpine region of Victoria and NSW, and also the plains around Canberra. Different too to the mid-north of South Australia which, after years of travelling for work I am more than familiar with. For many reasons, this area is just as spectacular to look at as the rolling mountains near Bega, the red dirt of central Australia, the eucalypt forests of south eastern Australia, and the coastal cliffs of western Victoria (or even those along the Sydney coastline). Next time you’re on the highway, stop for a moment and enjoy the view beyond the shoulder of the road.

    North of Forbes, NSW: [​IMG]

    Dubbo is .. well .. Dubbo. My first time here and I can’t say I’m that impressed with the town, although it’s really just like every other large country town I’ve been to. Quite obviously, Dubbo is a night-stop town when taking the back road from here to there, with a row of Motels on the main road. I gave the strip a miss and went looking for another pub for my lodging. I found one at $55 a night, including a cooked breakfast and ensuite. The room was small, a single bed, with no TV (not that I’d really wanted one in two weeks, but they are good for a bit of noise), a ceiling fan and a fluorescent light. Like a scene from any Australian country-set movie, I lay on the bed covered in sweat, the light flickered through the spinning blades of the fan bringing both a feeling of strobe-induced-dizziness and somehow a sense of calmness to me. The funniest thing in Dubbo was watching the young kids trawling the main street in the evening in either a single-cab Landcruiser or Mazda2 – Garth Brooks at full volume. Indeed, the boys from the bush are back in town.

    Day 10, Dubbo to Sydney
    Total Distance: 536km
    Total Fuel: 28.4lt
    The cooked breakfast that came with the room was pretty good, but I didn’t want to try the coffee, so I decided to pack up and head for home and coffee somewhere on the road. I stuck to the Golden Highway as far as Merriwa, where I turned off to Scone (where I refueled).

    West of Scone before crossing the Great Dividing Range: [​IMG]

    From Scone I took the New England Highway to Singleton and stopped for lunch at a nice little bakery providing enough energy and leg stretching for that penultimate tick of my HEMA (#39) down the Wollombi Road through Broke and Wollombi then Peats Ridge. Anyone who has done this road knows there is that little bit of dirt just before Wollombi – well when I went through it was a lot more dirt, and some works on the bridge. In fact the signs from Broke said the road was closed until 2.30pm. My calculations put me there about 2.10pm (and I was spot on) allowing another 15-20min break.

    I had begun to notice that breaks were getting closer together and getting back on was getting much harder. Anyway I had a nice chat to a guy who had pulled up behind me to wait for the road to re-open – seems he had come off on the Putty Road 6 months or so earlier and broken his back and a few other bits and pieces. He was doing well though, up and walking and back at work. Life always brings you little lessons – this to me was a friendly reminder in flesh, of the danger of riding – and even now, after over 3,000km in 10 days I still could come off at any moment. No one is perfect. You don’t win everytime.

    I continued on towards Calga, taking the old Pacific Highway into Mt White. I wont go into detail about the Wollombi Road – do it yourself and make up your own mind; I had a great time. Similarly the Old Pacific Highway is just a road you need to do for yourself (HEMA ride #29). My only comment is that after this trip, this short stretch of well surfaced, wide road, sign-posted at 60kmph at the top, and 80kmph south of the Hawkesbury, is a bit, well … slow. I did stop at Mt White for a coffee and a leg refresh before battling the Pacific Highway into Sydney during peak hour (albeit going south against traffic). I made it across the Harbour Bridge around 5pm and had the bike unpacked by about 5.30pm. Then a nice hot shower and my own bed!

    Some facts and stats:
    Total Distance Travelled: 3,521km (door to door)
    Total Fuel Consumed: 189.5lt
    Total Cost of Fuel: $251
    Average Cost of Fuel per Lt: $1.318 (95 Octane used)
    Total Running Time of the bike: 49hrs 54mins
    Days Away: 10 (9 nights)

    Longest Distance in one day of riding: 576km (Eden, southern NSW to Cowes on Phillip Island, VIC); followed closely by 556km from Cooma (south of Canberra) to Dubbo in the NSW Western Plains.

    Best purchase before leaving: Ear-Mould ear plugs that connect my ears to my iPod and block out the wind noise. Sanity is terribly important when you are by yourself – and these things let me not only hear music (and occasionally sing along) but the blocking out of excess noise keeps your mind fresher and more focused. Not that I wore them in metropolitan areas (except arriving in Canberra).

    The day after I got home I managed to pick up a nail in my rear tyre causing too much damage to worry about trying to fix, particularly given the tread was quite low, and so have replaced the both tyres (the old ones had done about 8,500km). I have also installed a rear hugger that would have been better to fit before going away.

    My collection of NSW and Victorian roadworks: [​IMG]

    HEMA Rides I can tick off: 10 (15, 17, 26, 29, 31, 39, 43, 47, 53 and 57)
  3. What a trip you embarked on and completed. Not many people would do that solo and full congratulations to you for doing so.

    Very well detailed and informative read.
  4. Thanks for the ride report. Done about half of your ride in a cage......time to try two wheels.

    Well done. =D>
  5. Cheers guys. It really was an enjoyable trip, and doing it alone was pretty easy. I've started thinking about doing another ride next year at about the same time, probably north to Queensland - however I'm not brave enough to open up the maps yet just lest I get 'the itch' to do it too soon!
  6. Great report and terrific photos. I love your perceptions of touring. There really isn't anything like it, is there?

    If you're planning a trip north, you might like to look at my 6-Day North Coast Diary. Around the same mileage as your trip and covering most of the best roads that the north has to offer.

    Thanks again, I enjoyed the read.
  7. Terrific pictures (y)
  8. Great read. Well written and good pics to boot.

    Keep Tassie in mind. It is awesome!!
  9. Excellent report... luv your stats....

    i rode tassie over xmas and it was fantastic!!! Take a look at my report below...


    also... some of the victorian guys rode Tassie as well over last xmas and plan to go again next year.... if you like going with a bit of a group then go along with those guys.... i like solo touring myself
  10. Thanks firetiger - I remember reading your post when you first put it up and being very inspired by it. Great pics, and damn find breed of bike too! The route you took in Tassie was pretty much what I had in mind. I know I'll get there one day, and if I could have the next month of off work with double pay I'd pack the bike up and head off right now.
  11. lol... go down for a week to 10 days and then go down again another time to see the places you missed the first time ;)

    and you can always do it cheap like i did... :)
  12. just wondering what it cost you in accommodation..
  13. Batemans Bay $60 [motel] (inc Blue UV light through the bathroom window all night)
    Eden $80 [motel]
    Cowes $110 inc breakfast [hotel/motel]
    Melbourne $120 a night, 3 nights, so $360 [private hotel]
    Omeo $100 inc breakfast [pub]
    Cooma $110 [pub]
    Dubbo $55 inc breakfast [pub]

    All up: $875

    Not sure how much I spent on food, but probably not more than $30 a day (inc breakfast, coffees, lunch, snacks and evening meal). I wasnt trying to be thrifty - although in Melbourne I refuse to pay more than $12 for a meal (best deal was an $8 breakfast including the coffee) only because I believe its easy to buy good food at a cheap price.
  14. Over Easter I got a chance to do the Mt Imlay and Brown Mountain Roads again, and discovered another beauty between Bombala and the coast (via Wyndham). Dont tell anyone else - but these are possibly the best roads in the country!
  15. Oh yeah, that's a great road too.

    For future reference I always stay in country pubs rather than motels. They are always cheaper and sharing a bathroom isn't a hassle. They nearly always have some sort of secure parking for the bike (motels never do) and the almost always have a great bistro with good, cheap meals.