Dan’s Diary 2012
If one chose the shortest route from Perth to Canberra it would be around 3,400 kms. Our journey would add an extra 1,500 kms to the trip and we expected to enjoy some riding country ordinarily denied to West Australians, such as serpentine mountain highways and snow.
For the previous 12 months the riders had been raising money for child cancer research (see Bright Blue information box) and we would continue to do so as we crossed the country. The sun was starting to warm the car park and there was an excited buzz as we downed coffee and chatted about the ride ahead. This was the third Wall to Wall ride, commemorating fallen colleagues, police officers that made the ultimate sacrifice during the ordinary course of their duty. Once again, our group would be lead by the WA Police Commissioner, Karl O’Callaghan, riding his 1800 cc, six cylinder, Honda Goldwing to Canberra for the second time.
An added bonus this year was Karl’s invitation to lead the expected crowd of 1,200 motorcycles in the parade into Canberra on the following Saturday. Our first day would take us along Great Eastern Highway to Southern Cross, where the landscape changes from the Wheatbelt to the Goldfields, with all the sharpness and clarity as that shown on the faux aerial maps in my year 7 textbook. At Coolgardie we would make a right turn and head down to Norseman to the start of the Eyre Highway. Yep, that’s right, a whole day, 700 kms with only one turn. Tomorrow there will be none, 720 kms of straight-line riding.
Leaving Mundaring, things progressed well until one of our members had a blow-out on his Honda Transalp.
Like all decent multi-purpose bikes, the Transalp has spoked wheels and tembed tyres, when it popped the front tyre deflated instantaneously, leaving Laurie to wrestle the machine in a 110 km/h tank-slapper. It could have been very ugly, but Laurie neither crashed, nor took out any other members of the team.
A flat was outside the 15 minute rule (that’s 15 minutes back to mobility or the bike goes onto the crash truck), so the Transalp was loaded up and transported to the lunch stop at Southern Cross where the tube was replaced, allowing Laurie to rejoined the remainder of the ride to Norseman.
Day two was the ride from Norseman straight down the road to Eucla, a must for any serious motorcyclist. As mentioned above, it is over 700 kms of dead straight riding, which some people may think of as “boring” but crossing the Nullarbor is quite stunning and provides the perfect lens from which to view this wide, brown land of ours. At the end of the day, we over-nighted at Border Village, which, is 12 kilometres East of Eucla, and just a few metres inside South Australia.
Next morning we pushed into South Australia and were soon at a point where the highway meets the cliffs. The highway meets the coast frequently between the border and Nullarbor Roadhouse so we pulled into one of several parking areas to take in the views from the edge of the cliffs that line the Great Australian Bight.
Standing on the edge of seemingly endless cliffs, looking at the waves crashing 80 metres below is spectacular and, if not for a fine touring motorcycle and wide open road waiting for me, I could have stayed there all day.
Back on the bike and heading east, we were soon upon the “treeless plain” that defines the Nullarbor, a huge expanse of scrubby ground, dotted with livestock, dingoes and camels. The road is lined with masses of carrion, mainly kangaroos but as we progress further into SA dead wombats contribute to the road-kill. Hitting any of these creatures would be a disaster to a motorcyclist. I had a close encounter with a Kangaroo quite late in the morning – which was unexpected but the open countryside allowed plenty of vision as the group of roos bounded towards the road. I had to slow to walking pace to avoid hitting a doe as she skidded across the road in front of me (I know she was a doe because I could see she had a Joey on board).
Leaving the Nullarbor, somewhere around Penong, the landscape begins to change from scrub and bush to trees, then fields and farms. It almost feels like we are coming back to the vestiges of civilisation not seen since we left Perth. At Ceduna we continue to hug the coast, making our way down to the next overnighter at Streaky Bay with about 600 kms on the clock.
The first time I stopped at Streaky Bay was for coffee or lunch back about five bikes (15 years) ago. I was with a group of riders intent on making Nullarbor by nightfall so there wasn’t any time to hang around which was a pitty because the town is a jewel on the Southern Ocean. Our 2011 Wall to Wall ride stopped at Streaky for the night and, once again, we arrived to another stunning afternoon, which was topped off by oysters and beer on the beach as the sun dipped into ocean.
Whilst I was having an easy and enjoyable ride, all was not well with Karl’s Goldwing. It had developed a slight pathology in the engine and wouldn’t idle properly. Karl decided a detour into Adelaide was called for so Laurie and I decided to accompany him. We left Streaky at 5.30 am, accompanied by the crash truck which was carrying another Honda (ST 1100) that was having alternator problus. After a stop-over in Port Augusta with Marcus and his wayward Honda, the three of us continued on to Adelaide, arriving by about 1.30 pm. We spent the remainder of the day hanging around a dealership before it was reasoned that a quick fix was not going to happen. Karl would have to put up with the problu until the end of the ride, or the end of his ride – whatever came first.
The alternator in Marcus’ bike was found unserviceable but, with the addition of a large car battery in a pannier, he was able to resume the ride, joining the remaining members in nearby Port Pirie where they stayed the night.
Meanwhile, having finished up in Adelaide, Karl, Laurie and I rode up to Gawler where we spent the night.
We were reunited the next day at Morgan, from where we headed off alongside the mighty Murray River. I must say, South Australia is this country’s best kept secret. The roads, countryside, rivers and picturesque towns all add up to a fabulous riding experience. I’ve ridden through it five times and it never fails to impress. I think they should have “SA – the motorcycle rider’s state” scribed across the bottom of their number plates.
The new rear tyre I fitted in Perth was looking kind of square by the time we got to Adelaide so from there on I set about getting it back into shape – without getting the bike out of shape. I had a ball on the roads through South Australia and beyond. They were a revelation to this West Aussie so used to long, straight roads. Additionally, we were blessed with beautiful weather for most of our journey, which enabled me, at least, to take a more relaxed line into the gig sweeping bends that were opening up before us. My luggage had been placed in the crash truck, which added to the seemingly nimble footing the Triumph was enjoying.
THE GREAT ALPINE HIGHWAY
During day five we ventured down to Swan Hill in Victoria for our next overnight stop. As we approached Swan Hill we starting picking up SA and Vic riders that were heading to the same event in Canberra. The roads were alive with black-clad bikers, resubling a Mad Max casting day, except they were all cops and, like me, were enjoying a spirited ride along some very fine roads – all within the speed limit of course.
The next morning, with all the SA cops heading off towards Canberra, we left Swan Hill and made our way South East through Victoria to our next overnight stop at Bright.
Our Friday night accommodation was booked for Bega, which was a bit of a gamble because, if the mountain pass was closed, we would have to head straight from Bright to Canberra and then find somewhere to stay. For days leading up to our ride it was snowing all through the ranges and our Alpine ride was looking in jeopardy. The idea of riding through the snowfields seemed a little odd but was something that I was looking forward to with great anticipation.
Vic had been monitoring the road conditions on the Hotham highway since we left Perth so it came as a relief that, on Friday morning, the road was indeed open – we just had to give it a couple of hours for the ice to melt from the bitumen then it was off up the aptly named Great Alpine Highway, a fabulous road.
I wasn’t travelling particularly fast but I had the Triumph over far enough to reach down and skim the fingers of my left glove along the road in some of the tighter bends. The bike was on song with the distinctive yowl that only a triple can make.
Our ascent of Mount Hotham was mainly shrouded in cloud and mist. Snow was stacked about a metre high, cut away, I presume, by a snowplough. At a convenient turn-off point, a few of us pulled over to take in the misty cloud, snow and ice. It was a slightly surreal experience but the threat of bad weather meant it was only brief. We needn’t have worried because, as we approached the ski resort, we burst through the clouds to a lovely, sunny day at Hotham.
Our arrival at the summit of Mount Hotham was cause for celebration, and the obligatory snowball fight. Some 3,000 kilometres had passed beneath our wheels and this was a major high point – both literally and metaphorically. Despite the cold, dank conditions since leaving Bright, the road had been a spectacular success for our touring group, we were elated. We weren’t to know it, but the next part of the journey was going to be even better.
From Mount Hotham, across the Dinner Plains then down to Omeo the road was sublime. Big, sweeping bends, dry and sunny, we had an absolute ball riding down the mountain. Arriving in Omeo, handshakes and backslapping was the order of the morning with most of the group agreeing this was the best ride we had ever experienced. Back on the road and the perfect day was set to continue with our ride towards Bairnsdale, tracking for a good portion of the way alongside a mountain stream, with postcard scenery flashing by. Our lunch stop in Bruthen was full of excited banter and recounts of favourite bends and passes in the road we had just traversed.
The ride up the Pacific Highway to Bega was pleasant, easy and enjoyable. Again, we were hooking up with other groups of riders heading to Canberra and would continue to do so until we rode into the city the next morning for the parade. This continued to add to the atmosphere of adventure and esprit de corps shared by police officers and motorcyclists the world over. There was no greater demonstration of this than the memorial ride.
1251 motorcyclists met on the outskirts of Canberra for the National Police memorial Wall to Wall Ride for Remembrance. The memorial is located in Kings Park on the northern shore of Lake Burley Griffin. Motorcyclists from all over Australia converged on the city to ruuber fallen mates.