Posted On 22 Feb 2024
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This entry is part 17 of 25 in the series AusMotorcyclist Issue#23



I love touring in Victoria and I’ll tell you why. In my home state of South Australia, if you want to venture down a back road to take the more scenic route, or just for something different, chances are it will be a dirt road. A lot of times it will have those small stones that are more like marbles or have those nasty corrugations due to the dry weather and lack of infrastructure to keep on top of maintaining them. Now I’m not bagging South Australia as we don’t have the population to sustain the roads to Victoria’s standards, but I’m always amazed when I travel across the border to find tar roads in the middle of nowhere. (I really need to get a dual purpose bike.)

On a clear day you can see forever. Today, less so.

Recently I toured Victoria and therefore got the maps out to decide how to get there and back. Plenty to see and ride once you get there but as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, life is about the journey and not the destination.

Every time I put Google maps on I hit the terrain option. The trip to Melbourne, direct on the highway, is 725km and seven and three quarter hours. My version was nine and a quarter hours and 824km. According to Albert Einstein, time is relative (sorry, no more quotes) so deciding what route you take is generally based on how much of it you have available. Naturally these times don’t take into account the time to refuel the bike, yourself and the stops we take to rest the cramp in our throttle hand and our rear end. Not to mention there’s more sunlight in summer, so less chance of dancing with Skippy.

No, this giant Hamilton bandicoot is not about to step on Michael’s head. We hope.

All decisions are weighed up with pros and cons so when it comes to the highway it’s easy. You will get there quicker and have larger towns to pass through with everything you could need.

However they will be fl at, straight roads with no scenery and you will be sharing the roads with trucks and buses. Taking the longer way is a bit more complex.

Trucks create dust, and two trucks passing create a lot of dust.

The towns will be smaller but they will still have everything you want. You will have to slow down more for these towns but they have character with a different kind of charm that will reflect in the cafés you can choose from. There will be more in the way of museums, lookouts or those quirky shops that catch your eye. The roads are only as straight and fl at as you pick as well as having more to look at. The paddocks will have animals and trees and even a natural forest if you choose wisely.

Let me tell you about the way I went from Melbourne to Adelaide.

Firstly I went south down through Geelong which dropped the temperature for half the ride. This starts as a straight ride, and then the South Australian side is quite fl at as well, so it’s the middle bit that gives us an opportunity to mix it up.

Sir Reginald Ansett’s original hangar, built not long after the founding of his airline.

I usually hit the road for a while before I eat. The town of Colac is about 2 hours into the ride so it’s time for a coffee and the standard bacon and eggs.

About 20km out of Colac I noticed that a lot of the walls for the farms were made from volcanic rock like the scoria you find in gardens, except much larger. They were built with one bloke on either side building it up and placing smaller keystones in the middle to hold it all together. The holes in these rocks were produced by the gas escaping the rocks as the magma that formed them cooled, and they are impressive when viewed from up close.

Coming into Camperdown there’s a lookout track on the left hand side that takes you up Mount Leura. This is an extinct volcano where you can stand on the rim and get a 360 degree view of the surrounding country. If you want to stretch your legs there’s a path that follows the rim around but it’s a little steep in places and would take a while as a couple of the sides have worn away.

The next large town is Hamilton but already the roads are better than the highway. The straight bits aren’t that long and the mixture of scenery keeps you looking around. Things are naturally greener down south and the farmhouses are closer to the road. Not only are there more trees but there are also a lot more large, dead ones with their limbs stretching out like a monster searching for prey. We may mainly have eucalyptus trees in Australia but at least they are interesting to look at when they die. In the paddocks large flocks of white cockatoos are flying up and landing at a better place to feed.

Coming into Hamilton the Ansett museum is on the right hand side and well worth a look. A DVD is playing telling about the history of the airline, and the original plane that Reg bought for 1000 pounds is on display. A close up look at a jet engine makes you wonder how the hell they stay up in the air.

Hey, that’s Andy Caldecott! This means we must be in Keith, SA.

At this stage I’ve only had to pass one piece of farm machinery and one truck.

Outside of Hamilton is where your research comes into play or you roll the dice. If you want to take a couple of days you could turn to the Grampians and be there in half an hour. You could head to Mount Gambier through the pine plantations and follow the coast to Adelaide on the second day. I just wanted to get home so I rolled the dice.

The next town was Coleraine and then I wanted to get to Naracoorte. This terrain is the only hilly section so play time begins. Using the position of the sun and whatever signs I could see as my guide I hit as many back roads as I could. These are mainly one lane roads so you need to be on your guard for oncoming traffic.

Let me give you an example.

While travelling one of these narrow sections I came across a truck. The road being narrow, I was happy to sit behind as he was sticking to the limit. A truck was coming the other way (these were the only trucks I saw along here) which caused a bit of dust to come up but when the other truck hit the dirt on his side it was a total washout for all vision.

A breather stop, somewhere in country Victoria.

I stopped and let the cloud wash over, quickly snapping my visor down, and took off after about a minute. Before long I caught up with the truck and thought I’d pass him to avoid another dusting. As I started passing him he started to come over to my side and I had to gun it to get past or be forced off the road. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, cough, and say he didn’t see me. Being on a narrow road he felt he could use it all, I guess, but take heed if you try to pull the same manoeuver.

Rolling into Naracoorte at 2pm I stopped at Mc Donald’s for lunch. Yeah, yeah I know. I was low on data on my phone and they had free wifi . Checked my map app, felt pretty good so a run for home was in order. The highway to Keith is about 100km but is pleasant enough compared to Highway 1. I did however get caught out with the old truck blowout. The car in front of me swerved slightly and then a chunk of rubber about a foot and a half long came out from under it. With nowhere to go I braced and got off the throttle. Crisis over! The rubber fragments continued for about a kilometre with bits of mudguard on the verge so it must have blown quite spectacularly. Treating the rubber like orange cones I pretended I was in the downhill slalom in the Olympics and had some fun.

After filling up at Keith I was back on Highway 1 and the grind home from there. It wasn’t so bad, though, because I had taken the scenic way home and had really enjoyed the ride – which is the whole point. Instead of sitting in one position all day, cramping up and being bored I got home feeling good and looking back at the things I saw.

Remember that rural Australia is doing it tough so any chance we can get out there and spend a bit of money goes a long way.

It’ll do you a world of good too, no matter what State you’re in.

Dead gumtrees, says Michael, look like monsters reaching for prey. Well, maybe.

About the Author
Australian Motorcyclist Magazine is Australia's leading motorcycle travel magazine.
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