I just spent most of the last 5 days on my butt, riding my motorbike, along some of south-east Australia’s very best riding roads.
It started with a friend saying ‘I’m riding to Tassie – anyone welcome’. I locked it away in my calendar, and am very glad I did, as I know that otherwise I would have just continued to work.
I had no plan except to follow him to Melbourne, visit my dad in Seymour, and come home over 2-3 days. Somehow.
I wasn’t sure where I’d stay, so I thought it would be handy to take the camping gear. Here’s the bike, all ready to go:
The whole trip
Here’s the whole ride – the destinations are lunches and stopping points:
View Two Snowies in a larger map
Day 1: Canberra – Cann River – Bairnsdale
We left nice and early, with three other friends (I’d say who, but I don’t know if they’re happy telling their story on the internet, so won’t). First run was to Cooma, where 2 of the group peeled off in a different direction.
Second run was straight to Bombala, then Cann River. The Bombala – Cann River run is lovely. Lots of long sweepers through farming country. It was an easy lunch run, and I’m sure we’ll do it again.
From Cann River we headed West, figuring we’d stop when we were ready. We made it to Bairnsdale by 3.30 or so, and this seemed like a good enough time to stop, especially as we could see clouds coming in. We found a cheap hotel, unpacked and went off to drinks and dinner at the Terminus Hotel, which may just get my award for best bistro ever.
Day 2: Bairnsdale – Pakenham – Seymour
After rain overnight, there were still big fat clouds around in the morning. We ate a fat-boy breakfast while waiting to see whether we’d need to wear wet weather gear (I did anyway, but I’m OK with being a bag of sweat at the end of the day). The storm passed and we set off. Had a mostly good run, but it started raining just before Traralgon. Our pal on the Triumph left us here to gradually head back to Canberra and we wandered off to find passable coffee and wait for the rain to pass.
Rain mostly gone and we went straight up the Princes Highway. For a highway, this was a pretty fun ride – mile crunching, but not awful…
We had lunch in Pakenham, where the highlight was being able to park on the footpath!!!!!
And with that, the end of our joint ride ended. It was fantastic riding together – much more fun than this fast description tells.
I set the GPS for Seymour, and asked it to go via Healesville. This was really my first time trusting the GPS to find me a road, and it didn’t disappoint – pretty country roads and lovely corners.
Day 3: Seymour – Wangaratta – Omeo
After a great evening with my dad, where I learned that it is not strange to highlight a map with the roads I’ve ridden, or to alphabetise spices and gravy, I repacked and set off.
The plan for today was to get to Omeo, following as many of the awesome riding roads mentioned in the Motorcycle Atlas. So up to Euroa via the old Hume highway, then off to Mansfield for coffee.
I quickly learned that this sign means ‘Woot!! Great road ahead’
After coffee, I was plodding along (not really, I was going through some quite lovely twisty road) and I saw a sign to Powers Lookout Reserve. This is why I have an adventure bike – I don’t need to worry that a great lookout is along a dirt road. And just look at this view!!!
Lunch in Wangarratta, then off to Bright, and hopefully Omeo.
Now, I have to tell you, my geography is pretty crap. And I don’t ski, so I don’t really know where people ski. I saw a line on the map that went from Bright to Omeo and figured it was along the foothills of the Victorian snowfields.
Ummmm….I was wrong.
This was so beautiful it made me cry:
And finally into Mt Hotham village:
So, if you haven’t guessed, that road went right across the top of the Victorian Alps. No wonder the Motorcycle Atlas, and the lady at the service station said ‘Over the top’. The most beautiful landscape I’ve ever seen.
And finally to Omeo, which is a fairly quiet sort of place. Here’s my hotel room (they must have a lot of riders as they had timber so your side-stand doesn’t sink – that was a nice touch):
Day 4: Omeo – Tallangatta – Jindabyne
I decided to start heading home via the Omeo highway. I knew there was some gravel, but wasn’t worried about it. After all, I have an adventure bike (have you seen her – she really is quite lovely).
The highway out of Omeo rises very quickly – lots of steep inclines, lots of switchbacks. No corner speed markings, no railings. No photos either as there was nowhere I felt safe to stop. But again, just lovely.
I was surprised when the highway turned to single lane country track:
But not surprised when I found the gravel. And really, quite good gravel for all 16km. No scary bits, no corrugations.
And then some lovely, lovely curves (like, the best I’ve ridden so far).
And then some more gravel, running next to a lovely river.
And just when I was thinking I wish I had the convenience of male anatomy:
And then along a fast country road to Tallangatta for a pie and chocolate milkshake. That 146km took almost 4 hours, but it was worth absolutely every minute. I’d go back just so I can go up the tar and down it again. Bloody brilliant road.
But no, the day still wasn’t done. I still had to get to Jindabyne – I really wanted to camp on the lake as it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Getting there involved more stunning alpine road, this time in NSW, from Khancoban to Thredbo via Kosciuszko National Park. Even on its own this is a stunning run, but my head was a bit full of wonderfulness so I didn’t stop a lot to photograph.
Past Thredbo and onto the awesome sweepers, by which time I was so tired I flopped along the road, didn’t sweep at all, and was passed by a tiny Hyundai. Need to do again…
And here I am, camped on Lake Jindbyne. After the most buttery & garlicky chicken kiev at the pub over the road I fell sound asleep to the sound of a christmas beetle trying to turn over, and woke to ducks quacking and baby galahs complaining of desperate hunger. It was wonderful.
Day 5: Home
I didn’t want to just come up the highway, so decided to go via Adaminiby and Bobeyan Rd. I’ve ridden pillion on this road and although it is mostly gravel, I knew it was pretty smooth.
How wrong I was. I forgot that it has been raining pretty much constantly since I last pillioned on it.
Of course, I didn’t stop to take photos of the slippery tyre tracks, enormous pot-holes filled with water or gravel channels. I did photograph this lovely smooth bit.
And this bit that looks smooth, but there were two enormous puddles just beyond the grate.
I should have kept this impromptu side-stand support. I could have done with it for the whole trip.
And then the gravel was finished. And as hard as it was, I missed it immediately & wanted more.
Then along Tharwa Drive, into Canberra and home. And out of 1855km, the worst was the last 20km going through the city. Stupid, blind, ignorant drivers.
- Km: 1855 (4.5 days)
- Km on gravel: 90
- Km of boring: About 200 (to Cooma, a little bit on the Hume)
- Hours in the saddle: About 26
- Big ‘Oh shit’ moments: 2 (both in the gravel on Bobeyan Rd)
- Little ‘Oh shit’ moments: Only a couple (one beside Honeysuckle Ck Rd – I was reading the sign and forgot to corner!)
- Hairpin bends: About 30
- Hairpin bends I liked: About 30 (before this ride they terrified me)
- Kangaroos in my way: 3
- Sheep in my way: 8
- 4-wheel drives on my side of the road: 4
- 4-wheel drives completely on their own side of the road: lots
- Apollo campers on my side of the road: 3
- Apollo campers completely on their own side of the road: 0
- Riders nodded to: 6 (hardly anyone out)
- Beers: 11
- Chocolate milkshakes: 3 (what’s with that??)
- Pies: 2
- Awesome sights: bazillions
Lessons & thoughts:
- I LOVE riding gravel roads
- Being ignorant/stupid results in the best outcomes (like duh, the road goes across the top of the mountain, and duh, it’s been raining for 6 months and the gravel may be crap)
- Having a GPS is handy, but not essential. And very funny when you head off on a random road to a lookout that ends in a cliff – poor thing nearly had kittens trying to recalculate
- It is not at all odd to highlight your map to remember where you’ve been (or maybe it is)
- Photos just don’t capture pure wonderfulness – most of mine look like trees, but were really about OMG!!
- Camping is much better than hotel rooms, doubly so when there is a pub in walking distance
- My bike is just so bloody brilliant. I don’t anthropomorphise stuff, but today I honestly wished I could give her a gift to say thank you for looking after me. Instead I bought a new sponge for $1 and washed her very carefully. Tomorrow is polish and degrease/regrease.
- I think the Australian definition of irony is that the best set of twisties I’ve ever ridden is in the middle of nowhere, between two stretches of gravel.