Posted On 03 May 2024
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This entry is part 12 of 30 in the series AusMotorcyclist Issue#29

back to Barham but decided in the end to just run up the Murray Valley Hwy to Robinvale. Lake Boga and Boundary Bend offer nice places to stop and we also managed a quick stop for a picture of the Big Cod at Swan Hill. We made Robinvale for a late lunch and then pushed through to Mildura. Nothing much to talk about on the Sturt Hwy, just watch out for wildlife. We booked into a six berth cabin at the Rivergardens Caravan Park at Gol Gol, great spot. A few extra drinks that night drowned out the collective snoring. An early start on day three. I think we were all happy to get out of the cabin. Coffee and breakfast in Mildura and a ride around the town and river esplanade as one of our party had not visited Mildura before. He agreed with us that it is a great place to spend a few days.

Down to Redcliffs for another photo stop at Big Lizzie, very impressive piece of machinery for the time. Then straight down to Ouyen, there’s no other way, for lunch. Another bakery which was doing a booming business and that was good to see. Many of the small towns are showing the signs of a damaged rural economy but Ouyen seems to be doing okay, we were only there a short time but made to feel very welcome and that may be the secret.

Again looking for a more interesting road to Horsham we headed out on the Mallee Hwy to Walpeup to pick up the Hopetoun-Walpeup Rd. We were glad we did. Almost brand new blacktop with sweeping curves and long fast straights and we didn’t see car or another bike for 80km. Quick stop at Hopetoun to take in the sights around Lake Coorong and to refuel,which looked like a problem until we bumped into the owner of the only place in town that sold premium fuel (in Austin St).

We made into Warracknabeal for lunch and a helpful local pointed us to the Royal Hotel. Looking forward to a good pub lunch we waltzed in, but we weren’t two steps into the dining room when the waitress greeted us with, “sorry lads, you’re too late lunch, went off at 1.30”. It was now 1.33. Couldn’t help noticing that the other pubs in town were boarded up – this could be the reason. We settled for fish and chips at the café next door and headed out of town leaving our dust behind.

The next part of the journey was probably the worst of the whole trip. The road quickly filled with cars and trucks as we got closer to Horsham with constant road works placing short sections of gravelled blacktop in our way. The Western Hwy out of Horsham to the Wartook Rd turnoff is probably the worst 40 minutes I have spent on a bike. Timing didn’t help as it was obviously tradie knock off time, so we had a gaggle of SS and XR utes mixed with 40 tonne weaving semis making three lanes out of two to get past everything in their way. All totally ignoring the road surface, which would be quite at home on the surface of the moon and which happily pounded the suspension and your rear from every angle. Of course you could slow down if you were happy to become a radiator ornament for a stray Mack. I penned a letter to the roads minister about that stretch of road but I am sure it is just sitting in a very high pile. Sadly there were two fatalities the following week, and it doesn’t surprise me.

It was a relief to pull into Wartook and the Wander Inn and a cuppa to steady the nerves. This set us up in the right frame of mind for the run over the top of the Grampians to Halls Gap. While the road out of Horsham was the worst, this stretch is one of the best. It becomes almost hypnotic as you set up for each corner and take in the vistas revealed around each bend. Stay focused or you won’t last too long. We took the detour up to the Boroka lookout and that is a nice piece of road in itself and you get to do it both ways.

Down in Halls Gap we had a couple of rooms booked at the Grampians Motel. We had a great night in the restaurant there with a visiting Italian chef putting some great food in front of us. We met some fellow nomads, they were driving cars but we put our differences aside as they had their own stories to tell.

The early starts, long days of riding and après road refreshments were taking their toll by day 4 but we were still saddled up by 7.30am to continue through to Port Campbell by day’s end.

A cool change meant we had to rug up as we headed off.

With the locals’ warning to watch out for the roos fresh in our minds, we headed south on the C216 to Dunkeld. We didn’t have to go far for our first encounter with the roos in the form of some fresh road kill on the side of the road.

As we cruised along with the sweeping curves unwinding in front of us, we rounded a corner to find one of them right on the road. He waited till we were in range and then bolted across our path. In his haste he stumbled and fell, narrowly missing the lead rider, and with the rest of the group hard on the anchors he scrambled off into the bush and we got away with a near miss.

Undeterred, we headed on to Dunkeld for our first latte of the day, but unfortunately 9am was too early for the local café so we carried on to Penshurst. With virtually no traffic we had these country back roads to ourselves. After some breakfast we took the Mount Rouse tourist route up to the lookout to be greeted by stunning panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. The next stop was Mt Eccles National Park via the Penshurst – Macarthur road. This was reduced to a single strip of bitumen in places but was still fun to ride. At the top of this extinct volcano we found Lake Surprise. It may be a surprise, but it’s not a secret. With another bike group and a busload of OAPs up there it was a bit crowded.

After a few photos it was off to Port Fairy for lunch on the Hamilton Port Fairy Road, which was a pleasure to ride with little or no traffic. With more food and lattes consumed it was onward to our final destination for the day, on through Warrnambool to the B100, otherwise known as the Great Ocean Road, which gave us a taste of what was to come. We had one quick stop at the Twelve Apostles for the obligatory pic and then on to the Port o’ Call motel in Port Campbell. We had dinner and a few cold ones to wash it down in the Twelve Rocks restaurant which brought day 4 to a close.

Sadly our last day had arrived next morning, but that also meant we were riding the GOR. After a nice hot latte we descended on the local servo to fill up the bikes only to find it was closed with a phone number on the door which no one answered. Luckily we found another servo in the town disguised as a fish and chip shop. All fuelled up we set off for day 5.

Today would be all about riding one of the best motorcycle roads in the country or maybe even the world. We set off after we agreed that if anyone wanted to stop for a photo or anything to fl ash high beam and pull over but once we got going and those corners started rolling out in front of us there was no sign of anyone stopping. It was almost hypnotising and before we knew it we were in Apollo Bay and another pit stop beckoned. We were soon back on the bikes heading for Lorne and lunch. Flake and chips all round and a good stretch of the legs and it was back on the road again. The GOR was everything we had expected and more and we had a great day’s riding. Now we were on the home straight. With news of a cycling event on in Torquay adding to the normal Sunday traffic, we made a quick change to our route and parted company with the Great Ocean Road to head inland on the C151 to Deans Marsh. This was well worth the detour; we wound our way into the hills on this tight and twisty road with big grins all round. At the Winchelsea Tea Rooms we said our good byes and started hatching a plan for the next road trip. All we need to do now is convince the wives of the therapeutic value of such activities…

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