11 August, 2011

Cape York and beyond...

The day had started out cool and dry, but now as late afternoon approached the heavens had opened and water was teeming down. I stopped at Rolleston to replenish my fuel and under the service station awning I pulled on my yellow waterproofs. I knew they would keep my body dry but despite having applied waterproof wax to my gloves 2 days earlier I also knew there was nothing that would keep my hands dry once the deluge reached such torrential proportions. A quick check with the local constabulary (who was also sheltering from the downpour) confirmed I had no option but to press on through the rain as the alternative route led to the coast at Gladstone, and not North.

The road was a smooth one, however, and the next section to Springsure was only 71kms. I had only travelled 750kms today so I needed to get a lot more mileage under my belt if I was to come close to yesterday's tally of 1,200km.

The rain was coming down heavy now with streams of it running across the road and pooling in the wheel tracks left by 4 wheeled vehicles. However, the Burgie was revelling in the conditions, running smoothly on tyres that were new when I left Melbourne, whilst my screen extension was protecting my body from the worst that mother nature could through at it. The road gently undulated up and down hills as it simultaneously curved left and right.

As I crested the blind left hand uphill curve I gently counter-steered to the right to allow the Burgie to follow the curve downhill.

Instead of turning, however, time slowed down as the wheels slid out to the right – I was aquaplaning and my counter-steer had caused me to lose whatever little traction I had had! In the milliseconds available I groaned to myself “damn!”, before surveying the scene – coming towards me, maybe 20 metres away, was a Camry and I wondered whether I would do a low-side slide directly into its path, low-slide more quickly across the road so that I was off the road before it reached me, or whether the Burgie would high-side me through the Camry’s windscreen…………

... and thus I approached the end of Day 2 of what was to be a 9,200km 21 day journey from Melbourne to the Northern and Eastern most extremities of Australia .

Day 1 – Bastille Day (14 July), Melbourne to Walgett.
The ride had commenced the previous day at 6am when I got an early start from the threatening rain on a bitterly cold Melbourne morning. I turned up the heat on my Gerbing jacket and gloves to ensure I stayed toasty for the 12+ hours of riding ahead. With the strains of La Marsellaise ringing in my helmet I threaded the Burgie North through the Melbourne suburbs and was immediately surprised how busy the roads were at that time of day – being a humble office-worker I don’t often get to appreciate the early starts that tradespeople have to enjoy on a daily basis.

Once clear of Melbourne though, and as the day began to break it, was a smooth run under clear blue skies up the Hume until just South of the border where fog descended and seemed like it wanted to hang around all day. This was not a problem on a 4 lane highway but shortly after Albury I left the Hume to travel cross-country along the Olympic Way to Wagga Wagga and West Wyalong. At Gerogery the mist descended further, and light rain fell, as both visibility and road speed dropped markedly. This section of road was a slow one and it was not till I reached West Wyalong that conditions improved. It was, however, uneventful and stayed that way as I upped my speeds along the Newell as far as Gilgandra before turning North up the Castlereagh for the final 200km stretch to Walgett where I arrived under cover of darkness, and set my tent under the cover of the barbeque shelter of the public campground south of town.

Day 2 – 15 July, Walgett to Emerald.
The morning dawned bright and early to clear skies and the promise of a great riding day. My tent was quickly packed and I hit the road for the 300km section of road to St George – the first major town across the border in Queensland - was fast and smooth – interrupted only by the suicidal tendencies of the local bird population. Large flocks of emus were sensible enough to stay off the road but flocks of magpie larks (at least that's what I think they were) insisted on sitting in the middle of the road and then flying off at the last minute as I passed.

Four of them hit my fairing at high speed that morning – each a separate incident.

After St George I left the flat plains and the roads became slightly more interesting as I approached Roma, and then at Injune I entered the Carnarvon National Park and the curves (and the fun) began. It was very enjoyable riding until the turnoff to Carnarvon gorge when the road became damp and light rain began to fall. Just as I reached Rolleston the deluge began and also where our story began…

As I crested the blind left hand uphill curve I gently counter-steered to the right to allow the Burgie to follow the curve downhill.

Instead of turning, however, timed slowed down as the wheels slid out to the right – I was aquaplaning and my counter- steer had caused me to lose whatever little traction I had had. In the milliseconds available I groaned to myself “damn!” before surveying the scene – coming towards me was a Camry and I wondered whether I would do a low-side slide directly into its path, low-slide more quickly across the road so that I was off the road before it reached me, or whether the Burgie would high-side me through the Camry’s windscreen…………

I realised that there was absolutely nothing I could do about the outcome but I at least I knew the alternatives and waited whilst the Burgie decided what my fate would be.

As the Burgie slid over to 40 degrees from the vertical something surprising happened. First I felt (and thought I heard) the scrabbling of the rear wheel as it slid to the right out of the wheel track and onto a firm surface, this was followed milliseconds later by the front wheel performing the same feat.

I now had control of the Burgie again even though I was now in the centre of the road with the Camry only metres away. The Camry driver flashed their headlights clearly astonished at why this crazy motorcyclist was trying to steal their lane, whilst I gently eased the Burgie to the left and back into my own lane for the descent down the crest.

Usually after such pucker moments I can taste the adrenalin in my mouth and I need to pull over to relax, however, given the wet conditions I simply pressed on to Emerald – the next major town- where I looked for the cheapest motel ($60 and next to the railway station) so I could dry myself and my riding gear for the following day’s ride to Cairns.

Day 3 – 16 July, Emerald to Cairns
Day 3 was dry as I fueled up for the final leg to Cairns, which was the starting point for the Cape York "adventure section" of my journey. On the horizon though I could see grey clouds hanging and I knew I would be lucky to not have another wet day ahead of me.

The route was straight forward - continue inland to Charters Towers before heading East to Townsville then North up the coast to Cairns. Within half an hour of leaving Emerald I was pulled over to the side of the road donning my wet weather gear again and worried about the lightning in the sky - on such flat treeles land lightning is a concern as a motorcycle is the tallest object and the natural anode for any errant cathodic thunderbolt.

It had been almost 30 years since I had last visited Charters Towers and it was a pleasure to see it once again. As I aproached the town the weather also improved and I was basking in warm sunshine by the time I stopped for fuel and an early lunch.

From Charters Towers the road improved yet again as it followed the railway and started to climb up and down hills towards the coast.

The final stretch odf road into, and through Townsville, was extremely slow due to long delays from roadworks. I inadvertently upset a lot of car drivers by lane splitting to the front of the queue - something which is accepted by motorists in Victoria - and received tirades of abuse from quite a few vehicles.

North of Townsville I passed the cyclone hit areas North of Cardwell, still showing signs of Yasi's devastation. The rain joined me again for the final very slow 300km ride to Cairns - slow due to rain and continuous roadworks to repair the cyclone damage.

Just as the sun was setting I reached Cairns, and decided that due to the very high possibility of rain I would sleep indoors (in a local backpackers) again tonight, the Burgie odometer having clocked up a further 1,000kms that day.

Day 4 – 17 July, Cairns to Bloomfield
Day 4 started bright and rosy. After leaving the "castle backpackers" I headed North along one of my favourite stretches of road - the coast road to Port Douglas and Mossman. On this occasion I bypassed Mossman Gorge and headed directly to the Daintree ferry and Cape Tribulation. After a short wait I was able to cross the river but travel was slow as the FWDs meandered up the road to Cpae Trib. Before long it became apparent that the slowness was caused by a one way section of road where the by now ubiquitous queensland road works were taking place. Once again, as soon as the traffic stopped I proceeded to lane split past the other vehicles only to meet by howls of abuse for not waiting my turn. I ignored these and reached the front of the queue and was able to enjoy an open stretch of road ahead of following vehicles.

Shortly after reaching the Cape the road turned to gravel and I was then on the Bloomfield track itself. A few kilometres later and I reached the first water crossing - and made my first mistake. After having successfully travelled through flood zones in central Australia I assumed the Queensland river crossings would be similar - they weren't, these had uneven rocky bases - and figuring I knew it all I ploughed straight in, feet up on the Burgie's footboards. As soon as I hit the first rock the Burgie slid over on to its left side before I had chance to put my feet down and digested a fair amount of liquid before I had sense to hit the kill switch. Fortunately a couple of fellow travellers came to my rescue and pushed me out but when I hit the starter button it was obvious I had hydrolocked the motor - how embarrassing A couple of young "spectators" helped me push the Burgie out of the river and up onto the bank so I could commence work. Removing the plugs and hitting the starter button revealed there was a fair amount of water in the air filter and intake tract and eventually the Burgie started (albeit with a fair amount of coughing and spluttering) and I was off on my way North again. The Bloomfield track, however, is very steep in sections and each time I reached an uphill section the Burgie ran out of puff and it was clear a full cure was still required.

I stopped the bike to check out the problem and it would not start again, pulling the airfilter drain plug a torrent of milky water poured out and the Burgie started up again. This had been the problem on the uphill sections - the water in the filter was running into the intake tract as soon as I reached a decent angle of ascent - and B1 was running a LOT better now.. A few more river crossings, and up and down hill, and eventually I reached the dry aboriginal settlement of Wujal Wujal, a fascinating spot, and shortly thereafter Bloomfield itself - a one shop town - where I camped for the night and purchased more oil to give the Burgie a full oil change. This was an interesting night, camped alongside the Bloomfield river, watching the crocs eyes glowing on the river bank, and lighting a fire to keep nature away (didn't work real well against the brumby which invaded my camp at 4am) and dry out my wet boots and pants.

Day 5 – 18 July, Bloomfield to Laura.
The next morning was a slow start after draining the oil. As it turned out, it really wasn't necessary as the milky water in the air-filter was only from the oil mist from the PCV - no water had entered the motor itself.I wanted to make sure everything was fine though as I knew once I got North of Cooktown I would have only limited and intermittent access to repair facilities. Another 50km or so of good graded dirt tracks and I was back onto the bitumen again for the run past the Lions Den and then Black Mountain into Cooktown proper. Cooktown smelt of formic acid (ants) and frankly speaking, was a little disappointing. I purchased a few more provisions, had lunch then started on the journey proper to HopeVale along the last of the bitumen before hitting Battle Camp Rd, which would take me west to Laura on the Peninsula Development Road. The first major river crossing on Battle Camp Road was Isabella Falls and I had heard it could be tricky. So given yesterday's embarrassing experience on the Bloomfield I thought it best to be cautious, strip down to my shorts and bare feet, and walk the crossing first. As it turned out, apart from a little bit of a slippery bottom surface, and relatively fast flowing water, the crossing was pretty smooth and not particularly deep. Figuring I may need to put my feet down I left my boots off and hung them from the seat on bungie cords before starting the crossing. As it was, the crossing was a breeze, with only a relatively small mid-river bump to contend with. I stopped the Burgie on the other side and went to put my boots on .... except they weren't there?? it turned out they had bumped loose and as I peered 10 metres down the falls I realised they were lost to the world (* or so I thought, as it turned out someone else found them at the bottom of the falls a few days later and I believe they are now hanging from a tree above the falls). I then had no option but to wear my lightweight canvas shoes for the rest of the ride - in hindsight, not a good move as they offered very little in the way of protection for my ankles. As I proceeded along Battlecamp road to Old Laura the road became progressively more difficult with many sections of corrugations, ruts and soft sand in addition to half a dozen more water crossings. Along the way i was passed by Hamish and his team of riders (2 KTMs, a Kawasaki KX450 and Yamaha WR250) who pulled over to try and work out what a Burgman was doing outside of its usual city habitat, and I agreed to meet again them in Laura that night. Before reaching Laura (and the Peninsula Development Road or PDR) though I had to cross the Laura River and vist the Old Laura homestead. It was a rather nice camping area and I vacillated whether to stay but decided to stick with my original plan and press on the further 10km, cross the brige into Laura and spend the night at the Quinkan (local indigenous name for Laura) campground.

Day 6 – 19 July, Laura to Moreton Telegraph Station.
One of the beauties of the desert, and camping on the road, is that you go to bed early, have a relaxing sleep after exhausting yourself physically during the day, and wake early to the sound of birdcalls - in this case wheeling cockatoos and galahs. I rode over the fuel stop to find not only Hamish and his team preparing for the ride North, but a small group of postie riders heading south on their return journey from the Tip.

The trip to the Cape is not a challenge when it comes to fuel as the longest distance between fuel stops is only 200km - mind you riding in soft sand causes fuel consumption to rise dramatically so on the OTL, in particular, 200km was only just close enough.

The PDR itself was an interesting road; it is the regular freight and service access road to Weipa and as a result it carries a lot of road train traffic, as well as fuel tankers. On top of that you have all the tourist traffic in 4WDs, beaten up 2WDs and a sprinkling of bikes (powered and unpowered).

The road surface varies from waer crossings (a dozen or so easy ones) deep loose sand, heavy corrugations and loose rock to hard packed earth (my favourite offroad surface), and every 30km or so, a 5km section of bitumen for overtaking slow vehicles. Corresponding my speed varied between 20km/h on the worst sections to 120km/h on the good ones.

My intention today had been to head to Weipa,however, after leaving the aboriginal settlement of Coen the road deteriorated further and the corrugations were giving B1's frame a real bashing, so when I reached the Telegraph Track turnoff I elected to take that instead and rolled into Moreton Telegraph Station after dark with my first question being "do you have a welder" - sadly, they didn't.

Day 7 – 20 July, Moreton to Seisia
Perched high above the banks of the Wenlock river, Moreton Station is a real oasis, the campsite lush and green compared with dustbowl of the Telegraph Track. My day started bright and early as I did a quick check of the state of B1's frame - my rear topbox was drooping (which meant the rear subframe was bending) whilst at the front fairing mounting bracket had snapped and the whole front end was hanging loose - well what are cable ties for I ask? :-)

I rode the 70kms of gravel to Bramwell Turnoff - a good high speed section of dirt road where I coudl travel up to 90km/h in places - and the beginning of the OTL (Old Telegraph Line) - and was advised they also could not do any welding and my only option was to ride 10km off track to Bramwell Station. Much as I was tempted to ride North on the OTL I knew that the condition of B1's frame was such that I shouldn't risk it, so after fuelling up I elected to take the Southern Bypass Loop instead.

In hindsight, this was big mistake. The Southern Bypass soon degenerated into long sections of loose sand and the worst corrugations I can recall having ridden on - at times the juddering was so bad that I could no longer see . On top of this, the sandy sections became longer and deeper and harder to ride in. This was particularly bad on the inside of curves whenever the road followed the contours of the land. I struggled on for around 75kms until I hit one loose and rutted section - as I slowed from 40kmh, to a stop, my vision became a blur and I slewed into the deep sand not knowing what lay ahead. What lay ahead was even looser sand and as I braked harder (albeit very gently given the loose surface) the Burgie lost steering and traction and gently dumped itself on the right hand side, and on top of my unprotected (by a boot) right ankle . My leg twisted and I felt a sharp burning pain as I swung my left leg over the Burgie hump and on to the sand. B1 was fine except for a couple of scratches to the bodywork and a broken indicator lens.

As I picked up B1 and climbed back on board, I thought this was just a simple sprain, but the burning spasm returned and increased in strength - it's never hurt like this before, I thought, but said to myself it will have to wait till I reach a population centre before I can do anything about it.

From this point the road deteriorated further as I rode along in pain - my speed dropped considerably and it was late afternoon by the time I reached the Jardine River ferry and subsequently Bamaga / Seisia.

After this I was obviously not thinking straight as when the road forked I foolishly took advice of the signpost and followed the narrow fork to Bamaga - which was the final section of the OTL - instead of continuing along the bypass road to Injinoo. This 20km section of loose sand was tough going and it took a full hour to reach Bamaga. From Bamaga I continued north to Seisia and took advantage of the opportunity to camp alongside the beach (sadly no swimming due to the possibility of crocs) and enjoy the beautiful sunset as the sun set over the Arafura sea.

Day 8 – 21 July, Seisia to the tip
Thursday dawned bright and sunny - a typical warmish 27 degree day in the northernmost part of Australia. Seisia and Bamaga are torres Strait Islander communities and the locals are quite different to the aboriginal communities further South.

First activity for the day was to book a ferry trip to Thursday Island for the following day (Friday),next up was to find the local mechanic and arrange for him to weld up B1, and then head off to the tip itself. The mechanic told me he was busy that morning and to come back around 3, which was perfect as it gave me plenty of time to to ride/hobble the 30kms to the tip of Australia.

First I had to head back down to Bamaga then take the turn off North again. This road was a contrast. The first 15kms or so was a typical wide heavily corrugated track with 4WDs zooming along and raising clouds of dust. Midway along though, it changed to a single track and entered the rainforest such that I was riding under a low canopy of trees, this latter section was probably the most enjoyable section of road on the Cape and was very pleasant to ride, with a firmish hardpack base and no corrugations - it was also peaceful and tranquil under the canopy, with only a single water crossing to contend with

Shortly after leaving the canopy I reached the carpark/turnaround and it was walking only from this point.

By this point my ankle was swelling up and quite uncomfortable to walk on, so it was more of a "limp to the tip". After the customary look around, and photograph, I dipped my toe in the water and strolled back along the beach.

I rode back to the mechanic in Seisia, and the fun began with me stripping boywork off B1, including most of the front and rear plastic panels. With one mechanic welding the cracked Givi rack mounting plate and beefing up the subframe mounting brackets, the other got to work on the front end. Amazingly, the corrugations had vibrated the complete front fairing bracket loose and snapped the frame bracket - there was no option but to solid weld the fairing brace direct to the frame.

Sadly whilst all this work was going on I forgot all about taking photos of a great bunch of guys at work. Meanwhile a group of older Peugeots (l'aventure de Peugeot) had arrived after driving up from Wilsons Promontory and they were also in need of welding repairs.

Day 9 – 22 July, Thursday Island
Friday morning and I was up bright and early to catch the ferry across to Thursday Island. The ride over took around 1 and a half hours and it was pleasant to smell the salty air, enjoy the heat of the sun on your back sun and the cooling breeze from our speed across the water as we travelled through an archipelago of small islands.

The island itself is very much an islander town, quite different to the aborginal settlements further south, and despite my sore ankle I decided to hike to the top of Green Hill Fort - it wasn't such an effort, even for an almost unidexter, and shortly afterwards I was joined by many of my fellow ferry passengers who had elected to take the tour bus to the top. After exploring the fort I was able to enjoy the views across to neighbouring islands and down onto the town common where the primary school was holding its annual athletics day.

I then hiked back down cross country and into the town itself where sadly there was very little else to do to while away the remaining hours until the ferry made its return journey.

Arriving back in Seisia I decided to use the remaining daylight hours to head back tgo Bamaga and visit some of the old plane wrecks the cape is famous for - a DC3 and Beaufighter are surprisingly intact after close on 60 years resting in the jungle. Returning to the camping ground I was pleasantly surprised to find Hamish and his crew firmly ensconced. We spent the evening chatting about our relative experiences and they gave me some good tips regarding the OTL and my return journey. I now had the confidence to tackle the deeper water crossings with the exception of Nolans Brook, which they had to carry their bikes across.

Day 10 – 23 July, Seisia to Cockatoo Creek
Saturday dawned brightly and I was off early heading south to Injinoo and New Mappoon before reaching the Jardine ferry.

I refueled at Jardine and travelled approx 40km further south on the Bypass road until the turn off to the OTL proper. This provide quite a struggle as the track was unmarked, very narrow and very sandy and constantly changed direction, turning back on itself. Needless to say 15 minutes later I arrived back on the Bypass road around 50 metres further south than I had started. I tried a second time and this time came to a T-intersection with no markings - I headed right and after 1km felt I was not going the right way, I turned around to meet a 4WD who had been following me and insisted I had taken the right path. I convinced them not and we backtracked until we met another 4WD who told us that yes, we were now heading the right way.

After a couple of short (but deep) water crossings I finally reached the OTL proper, had a few more water crossings and shortly thereafter Elliot Falls.

Riding in the sandy conditions was quite exhausting and I knew I did not have a lot of energy in the event I got into trouble on the water crosings so I walked each first. The real challenge was the rough and rocky base - which meant large potholes - which I wanted to avoid. Having walked each it was obvious that unless I got it right I could potentially drown B1 again so I made sure there was another vehicle (or vehicles) around before entering the water. At the first, there were a group of around 20 DRZ400s heading north and they had a great time watching B1 struggle across whilst they zipped around me like a swarm of flies.

Once back on the southern leg of the OTL the track became increasingly sandy and there were long sections were I struggled to maintain speed (in order not to get bogged) but with minimal steering control. I eneded up laying B1 down half a dozen times before reaching the last crossing for the day at Cockatoo Creek around 5pm. Fortunately there is a newly erected huge picnic shelter there and I simply lay my sleeping bag on top of one of the picnic tables for a good nights sleep without fear of rain or predators.

Day 11 – 24 July, Cockatoo Creek to Bramwell Junction
This morning started with the challenge of crossing Cockatoo itself. Later the previous day a couple of hire 4WDs had arrived and they also planned to cross this morning. Cockatoo is quite a wide crossing with a fast flow of water. Walking the creek convinced me it was going to be both tricky and quite deep so I elected to fit my snorkel just in case (this was the first and only time I bothered with the snorkel).

With a couple of able bodied 4WDers on standby I slowly made my way across, keeping the revs high so as not to let water flow back into the exhaust (which was well and truly underwater).

Once crossed I then had to cross lots more narrow sandy sections before reaching Gunbarrel, the next crossing. Gunbarrel was a lot of fun - the real challenge is the entry and exit for 4WDs, but is not too bad for bikes. A group of 4WDers - who I had met travelling north - were camped there, and after the crossing we travelled north together, meeting up again at each of the water crossings.

The last, and trickiest, crossing was Palm Creek. The exit was very steep and ther was a lot of mud down the bottom so it was difficult to maintain traction for a run up. The 4WDs also struggled because of the lack of front clearance and they ended up being slowly winched up first.

Finally it was time for B1 and I had a group of burly 4WDers pushing and shoving to get me to the top. With a big cheer, it was time to push on the final 5km to Bramwell Station and the end of the OTL proper. I spent that night camped next to a 5m tall termite mound - one of the symbols of the cape.

Day 12 – 25 July, Bramwell Junction to Musgrave Station
Leaving Bramwell I said goodbye to my 4WD friends and headed south. My fist stop was Archer River where I hoed into one of their famous "Archer Burgers" - definitely a great feed! With my ankle aching more and more, and continuing to swell, I felt there was a good chance this was something more serious than just a sprain, so I also stopped in at the hospital in Coen, only to be told the doctor would not be visiting for another 2 days. I had no choice but to continue south and ending up setting up my tent at Musgrave Station where I bumped into the Peugeot team again.

Day 13 – 26 July, Musgrave Station to Cairns
This was going to be my last day on dirt roads and I was keen to get going and cover the final stretch to Laura.

Along the way I stopped for fuel and spent some time chatting with the local pet emu - as always, they are extremely curious creatures. Apparently it just walked into the station one day and decided to make it it's home - too many handouts from travellers I think!

After Laura the road construction was underway and I had intermittent sections of bitumen and dirt to ride on. The road finally turned completely to bitumen just north of Lakeland (the turnoff to Cooktown) and from there south it was a nice sweeping bike's road for much of the way. I continued south along the Atherton tableland to Mareeba and from there headed east to Kuranda and back down the mountain to Cairns, and then headed straight to Cairns Base Hospital.

The hospital provides exceleltn service and within 10 minutes of entering the emergency department I had had my ankle x-rayed and confirmed I had broken my ankle. The doctors wanted to put me in a cast but I was quite forthright in telling them I planned to ride back to Melbourne so they reluctantly strapped my ankle in compression bandages (to immobilise the break) and sent me packing together with a referral to the Alfred hospital in Melbourne.

I headed back to my friendly backpackers ready for a night of rest and relaxation now that I knew the hard part of the journey was behind me.

Days 14 – 21, Cairns to Melbourne
Today I left Cairns along the coast road slowly meandering my way south in order to meet up with Kimie on the following Saturday afternoon.

This is only the second time I had ridden down the Queensland coast road to Brisbane, the last time was in 1982 piloting a Kawasaki GPZ1100.

As previously, there was a lot of road work in the aftermath of the recent cyclones and it was slow going as the road was reduced to one way traffic. Highlights included a detour to Mission Beach, the giant gumboot in Tully, a very pleasant stay at a downtown backpackers in Townsville (the first time I have really ventured downtown as previously I had used Townsville as purely a base for departure to Magnetic Island), backpackers in Rockhampton and Hervey Bay (alas I did not have time to visit Fraser Island but did go as far as the ferry terminal).

The final run down through the Sunshine Coast hinterland and on to the gold Coast was all fast freeway and a surprisingly enjoyable ride.

After finding a hotel for the night in Tweed Heads I was reunited with Kimie at Coolangatta airport and we had an early get away to Byron Bay for lunch (I figured that I may as well try and cover two of Australia's extremities in this journey) before arriving in Coffs Harbour to enjoy Ian and Jane's hospitality at their new farm and country residence in Upper Karangi.

Whilst in Karangi we made many new friends including a pair of youngsters and a fair few animals (Kimie sends her regards to cow 2718), and have to admit the possibility of an early retirement in that part of the world could be quite attractive.

Given we were now pressed for time I decided to head straight back down the Pacific Highway as we knew we would be on the road after dark and I didn't want to risk sharing the same road space with other nocturnal creatures. This was just as well, as after a pleasant lunch by the beach in Sawtell, the warm afternon sun and gentle rocking of the Burgie Kimie was once again fast asleep in the pillion position after only 15 minutes in the saddle.

We stopped the night in the F1 Motel in Gosford and then spent the following morning in Sydney visiting our old residence adjacent to the Lane Cove river park, before hitting the Hume and plain sailing back down the freeway arriving home early evening, tired and weary (well me maybe, but Kimie slept at least half the distance!) but suffused with the warm inner glow of achievement one experiences after another long ride.