Birtles vs Australia


Novice Tourer
( Being an account, in many parts with divers characters and scenes, relating a history of Birtles IV and Rider who,
in their forays through the Land, ever sought to espy the elusive Koala and to shun Pastries of Interesting Content )

Major Players, in order of appearance :

Glitch : Facilitator and chronicler of motorcycle tours.
Gudrun : Spouse to Glitch, cook extraordinaire.
Christal : Experienced traveller and adventurer.
Birtles : CT110, young at heart and nimble of limb.
Bernard : Foreign traveller, first companion of Birtles.
Grimpeur : Climbing bear, second companion of Birtles.
Peggie : Lucky peg number 96, first advisor to Birtles.
Ringie : French wristband, second advisor to Birtles.
Lyall : Farmer, now retired and resident in Forbes.
Kaye : Spouse to Lyall, and a maker of excellent tea.
Kota : Japanese cyclist, a mighty battler of winds.
Mrs Mac : Baker of Pastries of Interesting Content.
Koala : Mythical beast.


In which Birtles sallies forth, and a Castle by a lake is discovered

Pete’s done a sterling job. Amongst other things, Birtles now has new wheel and steering head bearings, new tyres
and tubes, forks that are drained and refilled, even his headlamp is polished. He’s looking like he will do the
lap of the continent with ease - and Birtles might make it as well.


Born in 2007 and now with 28,353 on the odometer Birtles is no spring chicken but Pete reckons he sounds sweet, and I agree.
Check out how Pete prepared Birtles at


A few trial runs into the Dandenongs and Birtles performs well until he splutters, looses power and then falls silent
as we are climbing to the summit. He starts again easily but the process repeats every time his nose is pointed up.
Back to base, where the carb is cleaned and the electrics are checked by substitution until the problem seems to go away.
But, maybe it was just water in the tank as later it briefly occurs twice more. When it does, I ask Soichiro’s forgiveness
and decide on a kill or cure approach. Birtles gets the berries (two large punnet’s worth - you know the ones, the ones
with the really big, ripe strawberries on top and the smaller ones sneakily hidden underneath) and that cures the problem.
Perhaps it took a while to purge every bit of moisture?


On go the other fittings. Pack, panniers and racks have come off a CT at home, so they are quick bolt-on jobs.
The front rack is well worth fitting as it’s perfect for the tent, giving easy access to the item that is usually the first
to be unpacked and the last to be packed each day.

Air NZ, or rather one of its pompous employees (aka “that bastard”) at the luggage check-in had given a thumbs down
to the XR250 tank even though there was documentation to show it was prepared to the airline’s requirements.
I flew out, tankless, while Sue investigated getting it on a cargo plane, but at $450 freight and dangerous goods inspections
at both ends ($150 in NZ, Australian charge unknown) it was not an option.

The white tank in this photograph is courtesy of Tim, another person without whom the trip would have
been a slow-starter - thanks Tim!


Positions are found on the over-loaded frame for Birtles’ companion and advisors. Grimpeur is zip-tied to the handle bars,
Peggie is pegged to the speedo cable, and Ringie is stretched around the speedo housing. They are getting vocal
about what lies ahead - “Climb, climb!” urges Grimpeur; “Ride ‘till die” Peggie chants, and “ … …” , a tangible
silence from from Ringie, who refuses to speak unless addressed in French.


While staying with Pete and Goodie I meet Christal, Pete’s mum. She is an inspiration with accounts of her outback travels.
Four times over the Gibb River Road and visits to so many of the places I hope to see. Her enthusiasm is infectious and
I understand why Pete has such a love of travel. With all the help, interest, and good wishes from my hosts, the Melbourne
riders, and those on the AusTouring site, this trip is no longer just a private amble around the continent. I feel like part of a
team in which I happen to be the one tasked with the riding. It’s a pleasant feeling, but one that brings with it the responsibility
of being worthy of all that help.


Christal pipes me off with a German folk song, the same melody that Elvis pillaged for his song “Wooden Heart”.
The original German words are more fitting than those of the crooning King: ”Must I then, must I then, leave the village,
and you, my dear, remain here?”
(Photograph below by Pete)


Yes, I must, I must. How can I ever return if I never depart? Christal’s salute is returned and I quietly hope to be a
fraction as bold as she has been in her travels.

Down the street with one hundred meters safely completed - just a few more to go. By the look of the brake light,
I’m already stopping for lunch.
(Photograph below by Pete)


Pete has suggested a route to take us through some nice areas as we head towards Lake Eildon. Comprehensive directions
are not enough for one who gets lost in a mall, and it’s not long before there’s a wrong turn over the Brisbane Bridge
in the Yarra Ranges.


A helpful local directs me to the Acheron Way where the damp hill roads going towards Mount Donna Buang are a treat.
Birtles is in his element with no other traffic to push him beyond his comfort zone on the twisting, gentle climb.
Cool mists, condensation on the visor, and the buzz of excitement that starting a new trip always brings.
"Climb, Climb!"


Over the top to Marysville through avenues of tall straight trunked eucalypts flanking the way. The kangaroo might
be a common metaphor for this land but the eucalypt would be a better one. Thriving naturally from the alps to the
scorched interior and so common that they go unnoticed, they provide shade and shelter, their wood has built houses,
bridges, railways, furniture, and fuels the weekend barby, their roots hold the hilsides together, their leaves feed the air and
their litter feeds the soil. And, best of all for me right now as I pass between them, they just look so magnificent.


Between Marysville and Buxton the forest gives way to open pasture land with blue skies overhead. Mists evaporate,
temperature rises. At Buxton Birtles gets another occy for his spare tyre which needs extra restraint. I consider one
for my spare tyre as well, but the bum-bag is doing an adequate job so far.


At Alexandra we head back into the hills via the Maintongoon and Sonnberg Roads, on winding gravel leading to Lake Eildon
and Bonnie Doon. The end of the Maintongoon Road has a familiar little cottage right next to the high tension lines.
I check to see if the Kerrigans are there, looking up contentedly at the lines and revelling in the tranquility, but the place is
empty - they must be back in Melbourne at their other Castle.


Lake Eildon is just across the road and over the water floats the soothing sound of an outboard motor at full throttle.


The old railway has been converted into a rail-trail paralleling the road bridge over the now brimming lake. Birtles can’t
resist a quick squirt along it when no-one is about.


Last time I saw the “lake” there were 4WD tracks and trees over its bed and the locals were mumbling about the evils of irrigation.
That’s the same road bridge in the distance.



The thong-tree is new - amazing how quickly they grow. Those red ones look like they are ready.


I don’t even look for a tent site at Bonnie Doon. By four o’clock the sun has lost all warmth, the clouds have thickened, and a
get-under-cover-asap instinct drives me to a cabin for the night. Later, when rain lashes the windows, and the temperature
falls to minus 2, I stop chastising myself for taking the easy option so early in the trip.

There are many ways to amuse yourself in a cabin. One of my favourites is called “Boomph” in which players take turns
plugging in ever more appliances to the same outlet - you’re out if your turn blows the fuses. Someone's started a game already.


It’s been a slow day to start the trip off, just 185 kilometres, but they have been varied and interesting. I am starting to see
why the southern Victoria roads are held in such high regard by motorcyclists.

... To be continued ...
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Mapping the next ride...
Staff member
OOOOHH, it's started!!!

BLOODY BRILLIANT STUFF, mate!!! :drool::drool:

Now....THAT is a ride-report! :clap:

I'll be looking into this one a few times a pressure, you know.


Novice Tourer

In which we relive the Kelly days, see trees where no trees should be, and dine in style.

Melbourne to Corowa : (interactive)

Day two starts wet and cold, through Mansfield and onto the Old Tolmie Road, a must-do on Pete’s route.


Then, the Tolmie to Tatong Road which is a must-do from my own list. It has Kelly connections as it passes close by Stringybark Creek where
Ned promoted himself from likeable larrikin to half-hearted criminal. The Kelly Tree that saw the deed stands near the spot where Lonigan, Scanlon
and Kennedy were discomforted by Ned and his lads. I reach out and touch a bit of living history, until a plaque spoils the ambiance. This is a mere
replacement, the original witness was chopped down. Now, who would do such a thing? Mrs Kelly would be jolly annoyed, I can tell you!

Even without the original tree it’s thought provoking to be standing close to where Ned’s life path took a turn that provided the country with one of its
first and probably most widely know characters. As I wander about I run my hand over some of the older trunks and wonder if Ned sat under or leaned
against these very trees while planning his rebellions.




Out of the damp forests and into the cleared land, through Molyullah and Greta South.
More Kelly country, all looking very green and pleasant.



Guess where this guy is from.


Quickly through the built-up areas around Wangaratta as we are aiming to end today at Corowa after a loop through Peechelba, Yarrawonga and
Mulwala, seeing both sides of the lake that forms the border. Sad to see the remains of trees drowned when the lake was filled - a few good men
with Stihls would be appreciated today by the boaties that have to weave between the dead trunks.


Dinner in Corowa with David and Helen has been arranged by Nev and Jo who have ridden up from Melbourne. David and Helen are Ulysses members who
have ridden widely, including tours in India. A great meal followed by much bike talk, during which it is revealed that Nev and Jo did the Postiebike Challenge
back in 2004 …. is no-one is safe from the attractions of high exhausts, red plastic and a powerful engine?

Hey Jo, look what I found on the interweb. Bet you wish you still had the Little Red Machine rather than that silly old BMW.


To be continued ....
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Novice Tourer

In which we muse on dangers, escape dangers, go thirsty in a pub, learn to be safe in the kitchen, and meet a very nice horse.

Google Map - interactive


North of Corowa it is time to practise taking photographs of converging lines as there will be a lot of them shortly.
It’s hard to do much photographically with a straight road - and with 7hp the motorcycling options are also limited.


Caution … musings ahead …

No worries with limitations, though, for in Australia there is never a dull moment. Bubbling away at the back of
the mind are dozens of fearful warnings about potential dangers lying in wait for any who make a single false step.
Dare to veer off the officially approved course by just a few meters and you’re a gonna for sure. Yes, even on this
well engineered, straight, sealed road north of Corowa there is an arsenal in readiness, waiting for the call-up.

Just some of what could happen out here …
1) get bored by the long road / fall asleep / roll into grass / bitten by snake
2) wombat wanders onto the road / hit wombat / fall off / bitten by snake
3) white line flashing by is hypnotic … fall asleep / hit wombat / etc.
4) two large Cokes from the last roadhouse want to abandon ship / stop, walk a modest distance from the road / bitten by snake / fall asleep
5) stop at lay-by for a rest to avoid falling asleep / hitting wombat / etc, and … (fill in your worst nightmare - someone at some time has been warned about it for sure).

My dread is to be abducted by Swedish hitch-hikers.

There is a bottomless well of advice and it’s bucketed out by anyone who knows the country (and even by those that
don’t) to warn of the dangers of the land and of what to be wary. Warnings start with the obvious and sensible - heat,
distances, road trains, Barrow Creek, Australians. Then they move on to a list of creatures whose names are traditionally
paired to the word “deadly”. It is a really long list, but we must skip over it for there is something so much worse: the
“Most-Deadly” list. The M-D includes snakes, sharks, octopuses, crocodiles, fish, and spiders, in fact, any living thing can
qualify for M-D status if it meets either of these criteria :
1) has the ability to kill, paralyse, and / or permanently disfigure anything that makes physical contact
2) has received so much imaginatively bad press that just its sighting sparks eradication campaigns.

M-Ds are hardly ever seen, but their mind-control control over visitor and native alike dictates the what, where,
how and when of all activities, from using a toilet (Red-back!) to swimming (Stingers! Sharks! Rays! Stonefish!)
and everything in between.

And yet, despite all the fear and loathing, despite all the well-meant, extravagant advice …. there was no warning
about the real and present threat on the horizon.

No-one. No individual, no club, no regional body, no travel agent, no government service, no tourist organisation …..
Nobody warned me of the terrible dangers lurking in Urana … …

... the Giant Silo Spider !


… and the Carnivorous Power Line Pigeons !


Keeping a safe distance from both hazards and increasing our speed a notch or two, we escaped to the flooded areas
north of Urana where spiders and pigeons were unlikely to be living in great numbers.

Where are the sun bleached bones and dry riverbeds?


Not at Merriwagga, 70 km north of Griffith, that’s for sure. The “Old School Caravan Park” is run by Mel whose sideline
is converting pushies to electric power. Great facilities and friendly reception here.


Neither Mel’s pushies nor his park are what put Merriwagga on the map. The pub does that with a bar so high
that a mounted stockman may collect his beer without leaving the saddle. The tallest bar in Australia, they do say,
though disbelievers from Queensland question that claim and have been known to arrive with tape measures to prove
the matter one way or ‘tuther …. and then leave, disappointed.


All evening the struggle goes on to order an orange juice, but all is not lost as there is a plethora of other things to do in Merriwagga.

Those who are too short to reach their drinks, or lack a horse, can feast on Rosalie’s range of exceptionally good
(check the labels) pickles and jams ….


… or stand outside to watch the sun set over the silos, keeping a watchful eye for spiders … and pigeons ...


… or, if there were still light enough, they could view the second of Merriwagga’s contentious claims to fame.
Forget Blackall as the home of the Black Stump. What is Blackall’s stump anyway? Just a big lump of wood the surveyors
used for steadying their instruments.

Now, Merriwagga’s Black Stump is much, much more interesting, being the remains of a woman whose clothes caught
fire while she was cooking Hubbie’s dinner over an open fire. Hubbie returns home after a hard day’s graft, fully expecting
to see a tasty lamb roast and three veg on the table. Instead, he finds the Missus reduced to “a black stump” by one of
history’s more unusual cases of spontaneous combustion. Her remains stand dutifully before the lamb roast as if checking
its progress, but by now the once juicy joint is little more than a tragically overcooked crisp, well beyond salvation for
the table and hardly worth giving to the dog. Luckily, though, some of the vegetables are still edible, if a little on the
crunchy side, and serve as a light snack for Hubbie as he contemplates the scene before him.

Throughout the inquest Hubbie stuck to his story and swore that if he ever remarried the second Missus would have a
proper stove to cook on. It would be worth it, after all, there was no point in wasting a second perfectly good lamb roast.

The late Mrs Carbon is no longer on display, but her memorials - a steel sculpture and a picnic area - are there outside
the pub, reminders to us all of the terrible dangers of failing to maintaining sound health and safety practices in the kitchen.

There is also a really efficient barbeque for those who just won’t be warned.


Didn’t we say there was never a dull moment in Australia? Still, we are a bit peeved that this business of catching
fire was another Australian danger we were not warned about.

On a happier note and for animal lovers … this is a Merriwagga horse.
Name, age, and gender unknown, but it’s very friendly and Birtles thinks the sun shines from his rear.
(Mentioning the horse in case anyone who is passing through wants a drink at the pub but has forgotten to bring a step ladder).


Life on the road isn’t all beer and skittles, sometimes it’s just bread and water. To pack down small, this bread has
had its volume reduced: take a fresh sliced loaf, divide it in two, rewrap the halves and compress them. On the spot
jogging with one half under each foot is the most efficient method. The loaf reduces to about a fifth of purchased size
and with few air pockets left it stays fresh for ages. Individual slices can be peeled off like pages of a book. Just add
some warm water and there it is, a quick lunch for the busy tourer.

A previous trip with AusTouring members brought home the importance of food to the bike tourer, with meals being
photographed as enthusiastically as was any scene. In this report we will try to satisfy the food-lover with photographs,
such as this, of the trip comestibles.


Camera numbering puts this mine between Merriwagga and Cobar. There are so many mines that memory fails
as to exactly where it is, but it did impress as being really rather large.


Cobar Information Center advises that, yes, there is plenty of accommodation in the town, but, no,
there’s no point trying any of them as they will all be full. The logic is unassailable - they are full because
they are always full! Every cabin, room, hall, bus shelter, woodshed and Wendy-house overflows with miners
who in turn fill every parking space with their Troopies and Cruisers. But, there is a huge empty field of unpowered
tent sites, each one up for grabs, so I hastily hand over $27 and rush to peg a spot before the one other tenter claims it.


Memory is pin sharp on that Cobar tent site. Two thermals on top, thermal leggings, sleeping bag with thermal liner,
riding jacket over it all … and still a wee bit nippy despite huddling around the LED tent lights powered by Birtles battery.
No, camping is definitely not popular in Cobar - I’m guessing that if the price fails to deter campers, the weather
at this time of year certainly will.

To be continued ...

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Mapping the next ride...
Staff member
First class! What a fantastic read :lao

Absolutely LOVE IT...always looking forward to the next installment
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