Sunday, December 8, 2019

Australia - The Grampians and setting a world record!

We did a bit of highway towards Victoria. But then veered off north towards the Grampians. Officially the Grampians are the end of the Great Dividing Range, the mountain range which runs all along the Australian east coast towards Brisbane. The Grampians are one of my favourite national parks and still as beautiful as it was the first time I came here in 1999. The Grampians are great to drive to and through, great for walkers (now called hikers as it sounds more adventurous I guess…) and great with a boat too. 

We arrived on the north-east side in the evening, staying in one of the many free camping spots on that side. Not exactly sure why it was free as these used to be payable. According to a local we spoke to Victoria National Parks had opened selected sites for free as people stopped coming. Whatever it was, it was a good place to stay, not too many campers and pretty. The next day we went into the Grampians. We walked down to the MacKenzie falls and just enjoyed the stunning nature. I’ll let the photos do the talking on this one…

We spend a day there, visiting all the places we had been to before and had a great time. The day after we headed for the final destination: The Great Ocean Road! We rode via Penshurst, where we found Schramm garage, or Lubritorium as it's called on the sign, still standing. According to a historian the Schramm's (with double m at the end) and us (single m) can be traced back to the same family and originate from Austria. While our ancestors travelled from Austria through Germany and Holland they lost one 'm' along the way somewhere. Clerical error I presume. What that all means is that we were technically standing in front of a garage owned by a long distance relative :-)

Since we're in memory lane anyway, I think it's good to stop and think about the first settlers in Australia. What they went through is unimaginable now. Now we want our luxuries and whinge and whine about petty little setbacks. Back then we had a different breed of people. The ones who made this beautiful country to what it is. The ones to whom we owe it that we can live here the way we like. They shaped this country with their own bare hands as they had to make everything themselves, literally from the ground up.
The remnants of their hard work can still be found everywhere. Abandoned steam engines that used to power everything from agricultural work to saw mills for instance. Shipping the huge lump of British engineering to the other side of the world was already impressive. But imagine 'riding' it into the wilderness, getting stuck umpteen times not doubt, and then having to dig it out by hand... Now we 'need' 4WDs with special suspension, special tyres and a lift kit to get around. Then they needed to get a 2WD steam engine on steel wheels off-road and into the woods... and they did!

Silent reminders of all the hard work our ancestors have done to make Australia what it is today.

We continued on to Tower Hill where Koalas and Emus roam free. It's not a commercialised park where you can see sort of semi-detained Koalas and Emus, which have been robbed of their freedom for our entertainment, which unfortunately is what most zoos are. Here they are actually just free. There is a picnic area in the middle and a couple of walks you can make. Always a good place for a visit.

Being ecstatic when he reached the Great Ocean Road again after 120,000km around the world. The youngest person ever to have circumnavigated the world on a motorcycle. A record which still stands today.

Officially it all started here, at this sign at The Great Ocean Road.
Why this sign? As we simply forgot take take a picture at the above
one :-(
The next day, on March the 6th 2016, we entered the western side of the Great Ocean Road. We stopped everywhere we could, took heaps of photos and had a beautiful day. I was a little anxious though, as the trip meter in the GPS counted back to zero as we homed in to the sign where it had all started in 2012. I had visions of the bike breaking down or a car pulling out without looking. The bike(s) didn’t break down and we spotted all the cars that pulled out well in advance. Strangely enough the world record had never been the reason why we did this trip, but now that we were so close it would be a shame if we somehow missed it. But all went well and on March 6th 2016, on his grandfathers birthday(!), Mike became the youngest person ever to have officially circumnavigated the world by motorcycle… I had a bit of a lump in my throat to be honest and pinked away a tear or two. Suddenly all this cropped up emotion took the better of me. It wasn’t the world record, I mean I was happy for him to have the record of course but we finished the trip. The trip we almost had to abandon when Mike’s mum and my girlfriend of 34 years suddenly decided to leave, taking half the funds with her. The scary moments we had had in various places all over the world, from being at the receiving end of road rage in the USA for no reason when I was rammed off the road by an SUV (the tire mark is still on my pannier!) to when Mike had a head-on on a mountain road in Kyrgyzstan by a car on the wrong side of the road which nearly had him go down a ravine… He could have been an invalid when his own mum slammed into the back of him on her 230kg bike. We had been struck down with salmonella poisoning in India and Mike’s venomous spider bite almost killed him. Yet now we were standing here, we had lost a lot of weight as we had to skimp to the bone to get here but we were still alive after almost 4 years and 120,000 km riding around the world… we did it! Against the odds, as a 16 year old would be too young to start a trip like this, they said, while Triumph Australia said my Bonneville wouldn’t make it up the Dalton Highway towards Prudhoe Bay. Well it did, and it did quite a bit more than that! And as for Mike being too young, when I took him out on his first ever ride on the road I could see he was a very defensive rider. He was very much aware of what was going on around him too. He had been riding dirt bikes since he was 12, so riding a bike wasn’t new to him, but anyway you can learn to ride a bike but being a safe rider is something you have or you don’t. He has it and that’s why I said ok let’s do it. And I’m so glad we did!

Young Mike with his then shiny XT660R. When the photo was taken he was still waiting for his license to arrive

I guess this is where it all started, learning to ride at Canobie Station when he was just 11 years old. A Cattle Station according to the owners but some 1.2 million acres of playground to him!
Mike's first ride, which became a 120,000km journey around the
world on the exact same bike. Well done Mike!
After the initial emotion and scary moments we’ve had had passed, all the good memories came back too. The unbelievable things we had seen and experienced along the way. The friendly and helpful people we have met, without whom this journey would have been a lot less beautiful than it was. Total strangers invited us into their homes, helped us with problems we had and showed us places we would have never seen otherwise. Naming them all would be a very long list, too long for a blog, but you know who you are and you know you are always welcome with us! It sure was an emotional day :-)

We celebrated the day by doing what we liked best: free camping in a secluded spot along the Great Ocean Road, away from anyone but  with a group of Kangaroos and a million stars for company. What a beautiful end to a beautiful day!