Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mission Australia for some Christmas cheer

Merry Christmas!

I know it's a bit late, but I thought I'd let you know I finally got around to buying your Christmas presents!

I was thinking I would donate gift moneys to the Salvos (they do lots of Christmas stuff), but was immensely put off by their values and mission statement. I know they do lots of good stuff, but I couldn't stomach the thought of donating to an organisation whose official primary purpose is evangelising. I do think that evangelism is a great thing for people to go out and do, but not with my money thank you very much.

Mission Australia, on the other hand, is coming from the same sort of religious background (hence being very appropriate for Christmas time), but their official purpose is focussed on looking after people, rather than looking after God. In practice there might not be much difference, and the distinction is only subtle, but it is significant. I don't believe in God, don't forget. Donating to the Salvos would feel like giving money to the Easter Bunny.

The Mission Australia website was also very convincing. They clearly uphold the same kind of respect for accountability and responsible use of resources that I do. The decision, thus, was easy. If you're wondering what you actually got for Christmas, I'll be happy to forward you their annual and financial reports and you can see it for yourself. : )

Merry Christmas!
And a Happy New Year for someone that needs it.


Greetings from planet Earth!

ODO 111k

Well hello there.

I am writing, sadly, from the end of the road. I'm back in Sydney, and the journey therefore, is over.

It's good to be home!

The last leg of the journey was as excellently inspiring as any other, and went surprisingly according to plan. I got from Perth to Sydney in five days, covering 4,900 km, including a 350km 'rest day' in Adelaide.
I did change the plans a little along the way, though. I ended up going through fabulous Esperance on the WA south coust, and all the way around the Eyre Peninsula in SA. I got to Adelaide and decided going to Melbourne first was an unnecessary pain in the arse, coming straight back here to recuperate. The day-by-day showed 1005km - 1180km - 1150km - 350km - 1236km - That last one a new record, my longest day in the saddle! It's good to know, though, that if I'd needed to I could have arisen an hour earlier each day, and would have gotten maybe an extra half hour if I was travelling East to West. The real surprise was that after three odd months of never travelling more than 5-600km in a day, I got to the end of my cross-country jaunt and wanted to keep going! I got home and just couldn't sleep - I haven't felt tired, in fact, since shortly after arriving in Perth. So the body's travelling well.
Next time I ride to WA I think I'll do it in three days, just to prove it's possible.

Just because I travelled it without delay, doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the ride. In fact, the leg reminded me what riding has always been about - being on the road. I've been far too much of a traveller - even often a tourist - on this trip. So concerned about where I'm going to stop, what I'm going to do, and what I can't miss... sure I did a lot of stuff, but next time round I think I'll relax and spend more quality time just coursing with the ebb of the European veins that cross the land.

So many stretches along this last leg are exceptional, just fantastic, totally negating any need to stop to search out attractions. Of course it helps that there isn't anything to stop for, nothing beyond the endless stretches of desert, scrub and coastline, for kilometre after kilometre. 120km/h is standing still when you're on a 147km straight.

The endlessness doesn't imply any lack of variation, however. The only invariant on any stretch is the road - the long, black ribbon, built to specification, slapped onto the land to make it possible to skoot through without regard, the fly through and think just because the road doesn't change, because so few signs of habitation mark the scenery, that the world doesn't either. To make it possible to see more bikes on trailers than actually with riders! As someone who was there, it's incomprehensible why so many people would deprive themselves of the opportunity to cross the Nullarbor. And the Eyre Peninsula! So much to see.

So if you get the chance, don't waste it!

So now I'm here, I'm trying to catch up with the world, trying to enjoy a last little stretch at one home before I move on to the new one. Looking forward to Melbourne very much, looking forward to starting work with VAGO, looking forward to starting something without knowing where it will end. It's a different journey when you don't know that you'll be returning to the beginning again.

Now that I'm back on a computer I can upload photos etc. once again - when I finally track down my USB cable. I admittedly haven't gone to town since my last upload, many weeks ago, but there will be a few shots there for sure.

All that's left now are a few loose ends. I'm looking to finish with this journey, but it's one of those things that you'll never leave behind.

Thanks for sticking with it!


Friday, January 1, 2010

New year, new post - old blog

ODO 106k+


It's been a real bugger not having my laptop to spill my thoughts into - they've been festering and decaying instead in the mess between my ears. I have a lot that I could say but little time to organise it all.

The last month has been great. The obvious highlight has been the company I've kept. I'm still blagging Kenneth and Justine's sofa, and its only their fine company and unquestioning hospitality that keeps me from feeling guilty about it. I've also had the great luck of discovering how awesome my family is, having spent a few days earlier in the month with my uncle down south, then getting lucky and working my way into a long Christmas weekend with them as well. How good is that!? Thoroughly enjoyed my time, and it's been great getting to know the relos, if only briefly. I'm already looking forward to when I can return - whenever that might be.

It won't just be the family I'll be returning for, though. I've left myself a good stretch of the WA south coast still undiscovered, and if my time on it so far is anything to go by it's probably some of the best country around. I got down to Albany (founded a few years before Perth), and was absolutely gobsmacked. Dead-set no competition the most beautiful city of Oz - there are some fantastic places out there, but nothing graced with a genuine CBD (albeit a small one) comes close. It's fantastic! The coast and hills to the West of Albany are barely less charming, and it's not until you get to the more populated and touristed Margaret River and on up the West Coast that you find yourself able to pick your chin up off your tank and recover from a numbing sense of travelling bliss. It's just great down south, and with world-famous beaches (while cold), wineries, a couple of startling mountain ranges, gorgeous heath and towering Karri and Marri trees... summer sunshine but alpine breezes - it's really somewhere you could spend a lot of time exploring. But alas! - that will have to wait for sometime in the future.

I have finally gotten myself sorted to return. My bike is legal (and even ADR compliant!), with it's shiny new 'gull wing' WA plates, everything is packed and ready to go - only my extended New Years' Day recovery prevented me from leaving this afternoon. The registration story is a long one - the whole experience was impossibly arduous, mind-numbing and irritating nearly to the point of defeat. I would never have thought that the hardest part of a round-Oz trip would be a relatively straightforward administrative act. Hardest by far. BY FAR. And perhaps the most irritating part is the fact that if I'd known it was possible I could have gotten WA plates a month ago and renewed my rego then - no inspection, no drama, nothing. If only!

With that behind me I'm now looking forward to 2010. Happy New Year! And yes, looking at the title of this page I'll be signing off this blog soon enough, if all too soon. It's sad for the journey to be coming to an end - though it means the start of something else entirely, and certainly nothing any less exciting. I have in my inbox my invitation for the introductory morning tea for my new job with the Victorian Auditor General's. February 1st - just around the corner!

The closeness of the date means a pretty swift return to Sydney from here on. Esperance is out (WA South Coast), sadly, and I'll be hooning across the Nullarbor without much delay. SA will be a brief roll off the throttle, and I'm planning on swinging by Melbourne to look at rooms to rent, before heading back to Sydney to gather myself before moving down for good. For good!

I'll post you an update when the dust has settled to let you know how the final leg went. I'll also be getting around, sometime, to sorting out this year's 'Christmas present' - all the money from all the presents I didn't want to buy for everyone going to charity. My blogging started last year with a toy run post (on 2009-motorcyclist, though), and it'll be fitting to finish it off with this year's edition. So you do have a few updates to look forward to!

And yes, if I can think of a topic I'll be firing up a blog for next year. I've enjoyed having this around, though I'M GETTING FAR TOO FEW COMMENTS *cough*. It's been good people telling me they've read parts of it, though - thank you for your feedback, and for sticking with my rambling lines!

All the best with the new year you have laid out before you - may you make of it what you wish, and may the Gods of luck smile kindly on your efforts.



Sunday, November 29, 2009

Many steps forward, but one step back

ODO 103k

Things are getting tougher here in the blogosphere. For a while I haven't really had anything compelling to write - I have been a bit too quiet, haven't I? But just recently I've hit a much more considerable pothole: dead laptop. My little computer has been replaced with a 2.5' portable hard drive (pulled out of said computer), and the opportunity to sit down to write blog articles is going to come around much less often.

I have just recovered a mobile (after about a month without), so I will try to get back into the habit of posting to Twitter - hopefully it will still work with the new hardware.

In processionary news, I've moved a few kms further down the road towards tomorrow. The trip from Geraldton to Perth involved a few little detours towards the beach - pleasant enough. I hit Perth, hit up the post office for my mobile battery, and virtually just as promptly left. After a short jaunt I was back in Perth the next day, but the weather was again (uncharacteristically) damp and soggy. Bugger it, I decided, I'll be much better off in Kalgoorlie!

As it turns out, the damp was not just coastal - though after a brief deluge in the Perth Hills I somehow managed to ride into storms for two days without actually getting wet. Travelling was good - popping along through a variety of agripastoral little towns, eventually finding myself in the goldfields heading north. Despite the chill, the clouds made for great viewing - surpassed however by the beautiful glades of eucalyptus. The salmon gums are famous - rightly so - but are by no means the only colourfully twisted, smooth, shagged or ragged growths on the goldfields.

I was a little unfortunate to hit a nice sharp little rock, and develop a little lack of curvature in my front rim. I got it back to the servo to pump up the tyre, and then back to Kalgoorlie which would make the nearest mechanic. The wheel held up without issue, though, so Perth I decided would be a better place to stop. Structually, the wheel is fine - and holds air with no complaints once properly pumped.

So Perth I have been for a few days now - catching up with old mates, and enjoying the generous hospitality of one I've not seen for a good couple of years. The bike is cleaner, I am too, and Perth is done with me for another few weeks. Mid-December I'm back in town to catch the cricket (which hopefully lasts longer than the three-day test which finished yesterday), and after that I'm freewaying it back to Sydney to organise life in the new year. The next few weeks will see me catching up with relatives, and exploring the SW corner of WA - the forests, craggy coast and beaches, the dryandra and the farmlands. It will be a good few weeks but you might have to live without much news of it.

Until sometime in the future, all the best with your December, enjoy the rest of 2009.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Long Journey Down a Short Road

ODO 100 000! Woo hoo!

Last writing was in Carnarvon, and in the scheme of things I'm just down the road. To get here, though, required an arduous journey, some serious problem solving and a return to 'civilisation' as I know it.

I'm in Geraldton at the moment, and it feels like I've popped back into civilisatiom from an extended soujourn in the wilderness. It's not the town itself as much as the area. My road atlas has stopped showing bowser symbols to indicate where fuel is available. Roads go up, over and around hills (yes, hills!), not just through them or past them. I haven't found any twisty roads yet, but I can tell they're here somewhere. I got to Northampton 50km to the north and realised I hadn't been in anything which felt like a 'country town' since leaving the East Coast. The place was hauntingly familiar. And the roads network all over the place - not just along straight lines built to get roadtrains between mines or cattle stations. So I can go touring again

Getting here involved leaving Carnarvon - easy enough, except my battery was dead. I knew why - I'd left the lap top on to charge too long. It was a hard thing to push start, and when I got there, I discovered a much bigger problem. The faint fuel aroma I'd been sensing wasn't my imagination, or fuel soacked into the paint of the tank. That aroma, moreover, had developed into a fountain of flammable liquid pouring out of gashes in my fuel hoses.

As it turns out then, Plan A (camp out back of town) fell through, in favour of Plan B (hostel). Carnarvon Backpackers - you can see what you mean when the visinfo centre says they "can't recommend it." But I have to say I liked the place. Not instantly, but it grew on me. It was small, and it really was like a family there - albeit a disgrunted and disfunctional one. More expensive than illegal camping, but it had its charms.

It also meant late Friday night a work opportunity popped up - for first thing Saturday. It meant I couldn't track down fuel hose, but bugger it - I might not get the chance to do any picking anywhere else, and it would pay for the extra time needed in town.

Just so you know, picking pumpkins with a bad back is a bad idea. Doing so without gloves is masochistic. The day wasn't actually that hard, thanks to an unexpectedly cool day (20-25! perfect!). My hands and body are still recovering, though.

The next day disappeared like a flash, due partly to residual tiredness and apathy and partly to a bit of noise polution (three snorers out of four roomates - what a ratio!). Which is probably all the better - Dani Pedrosa winning the Valencia GP didn't do my wallet any favours. A day, therefore, I'm glad to forget.

It somehow took most of Monday to pack up, prepare and fit some newly sourced fuel hoses (with a bit of re-routing ingenuity!), only to discover the 'real' problem wasn't the worst of it! The battery was dead, drop dead. Push starting failed dismally (the guy who offered to help had a burning desire to push it to the right... I was happy he offered to jump start it instead before we dropped it), and I thought the jump had done the trick. The battery might have been dead flat, but once running I was away. One little click, though... - the front brake lever turns on the brake lights, and the brake lights alone were too much for the battery.

By a long process (having discovered my multimeter was dead), I concluded the battery was cactus. The local bike shop couldn't replace it - not for two days, and at an absurd cost (dangerous goods express delivery... and of course, country pricing), but he suggested I rock up and he'd see what he could do. I think he was very optimistic in thinking the second hand battery could get me out of trouble (I didn't even know a 12V battery could be stable with such little juice!), but with my original on charge overnight there was hope yet. It charged fine, and in the end started the bike without much of an issue - that of course was the easy part. I still had at least 1 fuel stop until Geraldton. I did sit down to do what I really should have checked already (not that I had much chance), only to confirm that No, it was NOT charging properly!

So off I went, cactus battery, not charging properly - but dammit I was over Carnarvon. It was Gero or Bust.

Three kilometres down the road yet another problem raised its ugly head. The thing just wouldn't run right around cruising revs. Pulled over to check the obvious (a dodgy job meant brand new leaking fuel hoses), but no, we were dry. Just coughing and spluttering. 100m down the road though... problem solved! Perhaps.

At least, I thought to myself, the road between Carnarvon and Geraldton is straight - if there's a serious throttle problem I won't notice it (unless the bike stops running). And I sure as hell wasn't busted yet (please at least get out of Carnarvon!). So, off I went, again.

I didn't notice much, thankfully, for the 200 odd kms to the roadhouse. Neither trees, nor animals, nor flowers, nor bike issues. No news, was good news - and I was well on the way.

I did notice though, that the bike's engine breaking was reduced... and idle speed was 500rpm higher? But she was charging - like a one legged bull - and would have enough to keep going.

So what did I do? Took a detour to Denham!

Too much straight stuff here, and after all I was here to look around.

Through a stroke of genius, from Denham I managed to get a second hand regulator posted from Perth, to Geraldton. Now I really had no excuse not to take my time - it would be in tomorrow.

The next day I was still going (and still starting - just!), when I talked myself into the turnoff to Kalbarri - it was only one more stop, after all! And well worth the detour - some absolutely fantastic flowers, though past their peak, beautiful scenery, and a fabulous little seaside tourist town down by the ocean - and you know what, they actually have surf here! Big turqoise waves rolling in off the Indian Ocean and crashing onto the shore! I really can't remember when I last saw those - I think it might even be NSW.

A bit of a coastal meander (a pleasantly chilly sea breeze too!), and all of a sudden I was in Northampton, wondering how I'd gotten back to NSW without seeing the SA border. I didn't dare stop, and rolled into Geraldton not too long after that. Mail was in - and soon enough so was my new regulator, with a bit of creatively dodgy rewiring.

And you knwo what? The bike wouldn't start : )

Hell of a lot of pushing later and we had a purring engine once more - and, it seemed, one that was charging the battery as well!

May the rest be history.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Update from Carnarvon

I just wrote the last post because I sat down to write an update of the trip and didn't really feel inspired to write about anything.

Not to say I haven't had any good times. Ningaloo/North West Cape/Exmouth was great, some really good snorkelling, some good time up the range. The range of fish there is astounding, far, far in excess of the day I spend on the Great Barrier Reef, though the coral formations of the latter were pretty good. The coral close to the coast in Ningaloo was largely basic (all in a narrow shallow water lagoon). But fish! Wherever you went!

On from there I'm in Carnarvon for the weekend. Not much to say about it really. It's an average sort of place, little town, a little bit feral but nice enough. Was thinking of looking for work and staying a while (there's a range of semi-tropical agriculture along the Gascoyne), but there isn't much work for the minute, and... well Carnarvon? One weekend's enough.


The Flighty Life of a Traveller

ODO 99,350 - nearly at the ton!

There is an aspect to being a traveller that I had not really expected. I don't have direction. At any point in time, I am always headed in one of the directions of the compass. That seems, however, to have diminished as a source of inspiration and motivation.

I am in the unusual situation that nothing needs to be done. With an increasing freedom from time constraints even moving is optional. Even things that 'can't be put off', only need to happen before certain other things (which usually aren't pertinent), and nothing ever seems to back up. Things like blogging or my email inbox... being on the road, there is little significance to such things actually being up to date.

I think I have 'free time'. Previously, an abundance of this creature was semi-mythical. Something people have in movies, or maybe high school - in lands far, far away. The possibility of 'free time' always seemed to coincide with the acceptance of yet more things to do with it - an accretion which typically outpaced that actually occurance of this time. And which, of course, was consequently never 'free'.

Some people may know this as what happens after work, or on weekends. I have had some encounters with this before, and I can tell you an abundance of it is another matter altogether.

These days, I have to work out what I will do, based almost exclusevely on what I want to do. 'What(ever) you want' is only really a plus if you can actually work out how to remove the 'ever'. So I've invented all sorts of funny games, which have become the backbone of my daily life. They are not easy! Winning requires a degree of consciousness, experience and intent that I am only just building.

As a couple of examples:

Cleanliness: If you're dirty, plan to have a shower (clean the clothes etc.) after you've both accepted being dirty, then gotten sick of it. Don't plan on doing anything dirty until after you've milked the cleanliness for all its worth. (e.g., don't spend the weekend in a hostel in Carnarvon with 'snorkelling' on the todo list, when you could bask in cleanliness after a week on the beach.)

Food: Eat when you're most hungry. This is a good opportunity to be happy, don't waste it by jumping in too early or putting it off.

There are a range of base 'happinesses' which are identifiable in day to day life. Oddly enough, the best way I have found to manage them is usually by bingeing. There isn't much room for the median life on the road.

One of the definitely positive (not just new and novel) aspects of this 'free time' business is that things which should make one happy, can do so, when in normal life they usually would have a minor impact. Things like good food, fine company, beautiful surroundings - you don't need to binge to enjoy them, it just wakes you up to their presence. I've found that, having time to sit and think, I often say to myself "hey, this [potential source of happiness] should be making me happy!" And usually, then it does. It just helps to realise that.

I can only speak of myself here, but I think normally life is ruled by imperatives. 'Should do', 'need to do', 'want to do'... Out here, the positives have room to assert themselves. 'This is good', 'I enjoy it'...

Taking some getting used to, but I'm getting better at it. : )