I was absolutely blown away when I checked my leave balance at work. A combination of a few work courses that had compulsory attendance, being so poor that fat chick with diabetes who sleeps next to the ATM King street could spot me a fiver and a genetically-inherited work ethic that comes from the poor Welsh side of the family (Work 12 hour days down the mines 6 days a week before dying at 32) meant that management were harassing me to book some in. So I've got 11 days off every month until February next year. I had a spare six days to kill this time around so decided to grab my 2016 Ducati Scrambler and go and visit some friends. On the first day I travelled down to Eastern Victoria. For years I'd taken the freeway through Moe, Morwell and Traralgon but have only recently discovered the roads that run south of that nightmare. It's all rolling hills, reasonably well-paved roads and in this case, storms. There are no pictures of this as my hands were that cold I couldn't get to my phone. The friend I was going to be staying with had told me he was planning on moving to Marlo, which is around an hour away. So I rode there. I dodged a Kangaroo in the freezing darkness. When I arrived in Marlo I stopped for a smoke and sent him an SMS asking for his address. He said he hadn't gone through with his move to Marlo. He was still in Bairnsdale. So I rode back to Bairnsdale as it started to rain, kicking myself that I didn't check something so basic before I left. Hell, I'd fastidiously packed and organised everything. Even down to the little masturbation sex toy my girlfriend gave my for the trip away. Have you seen the Tenga Egg? It's a small plastic cup that contains a silicone egg with a hole in it that you lube up and shag. It's like a portable fleshlight. Genius. Anyway, the point is I had packed that but hadn't bothered to find out my destination. I got to Matt's house later that night had a few beers as we talked about his new bike. He'd recently gone through a divorce and after surrendering the little money he had, and the little dog (It's a tiny thing that looks like a fruitbat) he'd decided to get a Yamaha MT09 as a consolation prize. I think he won. He's starting to think so too. We had a few drinks that night and rolled out of his driveway after posing for a picture. The sun was shining, the bikes were running great and it was fcuking fantastic to be on the road. Ten minutes later the sky darkened and it started pissing down. I was thinking 'Christ, this rain is loud!' before looking down and seeing the hail settle into my lap. A few minutes later the storm passed. We swapped bikes for a brief stint. fcuk me, the MT09 is a great bit of kit. The engine has plenty of torque, some personality and it handles beautifully. The mode switching is cleanly done and it the bike itself feels really light. You know those motorcycles that you get on and you settle in straight away? That was how I felt about this bike. It was great. I can totally imagine owning one when they're worth $6,000. In a year. We rode to Orbost, stopped for fuel and headed up the Bonang Highway. This is one of my favourite roads in Australia. It's 120km's of tight, winding road with absolutely no traffic visible. I've done the road six or seven times and have only ever seen one car coming the other way and one kamikaze on a KTM going sideways downhill. (As he's on an Austrian bike, it might be more appropriate to say 'Volksturm member with a Panzerfaust and an armband' than 'kamikaze' but that doesn't have as good a ring to it*) There's rarely any bikes on the road because it has a dirt section 10km long. And that's it. That's what frightens people. It scares off sportsbike riders and cruiser riders alike. Don't tell anyone but it's a piece of piss to get through. I've got semi-dirtish tyres on the Scrambler so that was no problem, and I did the whole road at a leisurely 60km/h or so. Every time I looked behind I saw Matt on his Yamaha right behind me. He's now done more unpaved riding than most 1200GS riders. We stopped at a community centre to take a leak. Fatso lived underneath it. That night we stayed in Bombala. After federation the Australian government considered where they'd stick their grey, soulless drain on the national psyche and it came down to a dead head between Bombala and Canberra. They went with Canberra as it was more inland (harder to invade) and flatter (easier to build on). It was a shame they didn't go with one of their other ideas - a roving, circus-like national capital that lapped the country on the back of horse drawn wagons. I liked that idea. It's a good thing Canberra was chosen as Bombala become bike heaven. They're a very motorcycle-friendly town. As the sign leading into the centre hints at... But the best part is the Imperial Hotel and it's publican, Steve. Affordable rooms, great food and just a fantastic place to spend the night. Matt and I stayed drinking until midnight. A room, a great dinner, a fair few beers and a few shots only set us back $140 each. The publican is on the left. The next morning Matt went back home to Bairnsdale via the Monaro highway and I headed east. After a cold start and a twisting mountain road I made it to Pambula and the gorgeous, gorgeous sunshine. I've done the run up the South coast of NSW loads of time and it never ceases to disappoint. I think it's described in the Hema motorcycle atlas as being 'surf and turf'. One minute you'll be barrelling through forest reminiscent of the Dandenongs and the next you'll be riding alongside the ocean. I didn't stop the whole day to take any pics as I was enjoying myself so much. I ended up staying in an Air BnB in Tuross Head with a lovely older lady. In a moment of poetic introversion I thought she had those kind of red eyes that always seemed like she had been, or was about to, start crying. She spoke about her divorce. I realised that she had actually been crying and realised I wasn't half as observant as I thought. The beach at Tuross Head. Later that night I received a filthy MMS from my girlfriend and used the egg. I was off at around 10AM the next day after a smoke and the usual faffing about and headed towards Canberra. I was thinking of going to Batemans bay and up the mountain from there but I always feel a little underwhelmed by that ride so I took a look at my map and found an unpaved road that went east from Moruya before running into Canberra from the South. It's called 'Araluen Road' and it was beautiful. Tightly packed dirt for the most part and it snaked along a fast-flowing creek. The Scrambler hands this kind of stuff fine. An aside here - the Scrambler isn't a dirtbike. It makes vague notions that it is and there's videos of people taking them off road but they're usually bloody experienced riders. I've found it easy to ride off road but shit at river crossings, okay in the mud but no better than other bikes I've forced into some impromptu offroading. I've decided that a dirt bike is like a dildo. Anything can be one if you're brave enough. I was riding along, looking at the river when up ahead I spotted the black outline of a wallaby. I slowed and she hopped away from me. I sat behind her, at a walking pace, waiting for her to run off the road. To the right was a steep mountainside and the left a sharp drop down a cliff. The wallaby jumped down the cliff. Holy shit. I stopped, laughing to myself. Put the kickstand down and look over the edge. The wallaby was on a rocky ledge around 20 meters down. And very still. I felt a little bad for laughing. I thought I saw a joey in it's pouch before it killed itself rather than spend another minute near a Ducati. I took off my helmet and gloves and grabbed my hoodie from my backpack and spent the next 15 minutes walking, sliding and swearing my way down the incline only to find a very dead wallaby with nothing in the pouch. It took me longer to walk up. Araluen road goes through a town called... wait for it... Araluen. And it's amazing. It sits in the middle of a gully that is one of the greenest parts of Australia I've ever seen. I had a schooner (hey, I'm definitely in NSW now!) and had a chat with the bird out the back, a cockatoo that said 'Hello Cocky!' as I walked up. 'U fcuken wat m8?' I said back. He didn't get the joke. The second half the journey is coming if anyone is interested. It involves running out of fuel, snow and an attempted bike theft if anyone is interested. * Just a little gag there for the history nerds reading this.