Ride a motorcycle on the south coast of Australia

Ulrike dressed all in white in front of the gear-loaded Honda Rebel in Australia.

It’s now January 2019 and I want you to know I did it. In February 2017 I moto-camped between Adelaide and Melbourne, and I lived to tell the tale. And I only dropped the bike, er, once-ish.

Go to the photo travelogue: A solo moto-camping adventure in Australia

As you recall I was in South Australia happily ticking items off my Australia bucket list. There was just one item still outstanding: ride a motorcycle across Australia.

And if I liked it, I might do the same once I got back to Canada.

With the help of new friends in Willunga, I managed to buy a 1997 Honda Rebel 250cc on Gumtree, borrow some camping gear, acquire maps, and use a couple of bungy cords to strap a massive grey backpack to the rear gear rack of the bike.

“You’re going to camp in the bush?” asked one friend. “Aren’t you afraid of the poisonous spiders and snakes?”

“I’m Canadian,” I replied. “Where I live, it’s bears and cougars you’ve got to look out for.”

Over four weeks I rode the motorcycle on a 3250-kilometer loop. I went south to Kangaroo Island, then east on the Coorong, the Great Ocean Road, up to Melbourne, west to the Grampians, north along the Murray River, west to the Barossa, and then south back to Willunga.

Along the way I rode lovely roads, met friendly people, dropped the bike on a remote forestry road, came face-to-face with a large spider; and drank wine on a beach—frequently.

Go to the photo travelogue: A solo moto-camping adventure in Australia

Here’s a sneak peek:

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Grab a Coopers from the Esky, next to the barbie

Ice? Check. Beer? Check. Chicken and sausages? Check. Barbie? Fire it up.

It’s Sunday evening and my hosts Jared and Ruth tell me they’ve invited some friends over for a barbeque. Naturally, we’ll need some ice in the Esky (portable cooler) to keep the Coopers (pale ale) frosty.

Jared preps the retro grill, Ruth marinates the chicken, I sweep the shed (covered patio area), Delilah wipes the kids’ table, and Tilly tunes her guitar.

There’ll be three little kids running around, three guitars jamming, one dad bongo-drumming, a backyard fire burning, stars twinkling, and me pushing twigs into the fire and quietly taking it all in.

Jared Thomas at home with the barbeque in South Australia.
Jared Thomas grills up some chicken skewers on the barbie at home in South Australia.

Flirt with a biplane pilot

Coffee milkshake at Adelaide Biplanes museum near Aldinga, South Australia.

I imagined that if I arrived at the Adelaide Biplanes aerodrome on a bicycle in a breezy summer dress, I could flirt with a pilot and sweet-talk my way into his cockpit.

That didn’t quite happen. I did cycle a few kilometres from McLaren Vale to the airfield and museum, and I did scan my radar for pilots, but the place was quiet and none were to be found.

Instead, I ordered a thick coffee milkshake and watched a small plane practice taking off and landing from the comfort of the airfield’s vintage-themed café.

Says the Adelaide Biplanes website,

“Based at the vintage and charming Aldinga Airfield, Adelaide Biplanes is all about delivering some of the most awesome flying experiences it’s possible to imagine. From the joy and sheer romance of a gentle Waco biplane flight at 1,000 feet, along the scenic Adelaide south coast, or a vintage Tiger Moth flight with a stunning sunset as your personal backdrop, to an extreme Great Lakes biplane open cockpit Aerobatic Flight that offers a totally unique, adrenalin-pumping experience, that literally puts all your senses on overload. To the ultimate buzz of actually learning to fly at the most motivating, challengingly-fun, inspiringly-easy going and singularly safe Flying School. At Adelaide Biplanes, we have a passion for pretty much everything there is to do with aeroplanes.”

I was grounded this time, but rumour has it Santa Claus has logged a flight plan with the tiny airport. Maybe I’ll bump into the big fella next time around.

Cafe and museum at the Adelaide Biplanes airport near Aldinga, South Australia.
Cafe and museum at the Adelaide Biplanes airport near Aldinga, South Australia.

Miss a Burmese-Goan memoir

Cover of Homeward Bound, a memoir by Aloysius D'Souza.

Rangoon, Burma was home to a community of Goan families before WWII.

That included my father Leo Rodrigues and his cousin Aloysius D’Souza. They were born in Rangoon and  were age six when the Japanese attacked the city a few weeks after they bombed Pearl Harbour.

Leo and Aloysius and their families had to flee Rangoon by rail, sea, and land. Our families arrived safely in Calcutta port and trickled back to Goa via Delhi and Bombay.

Two years ago I flew to Goa, India to work on my own book based on my Girl Gone Goa blog. I felt compelled to put it on pause because I wanted to edit a memoir that Aloysius had drafted. I couldn’t help but get caught up in his stories of community, music, food, farm life, and war.

Today I received word that Uncle will celebrate both the publishing of his book and his 83rd birthday in Goa this week.

I’m in Australia now and I feel like just one small ocean separates me from him. But a travel agent tells me a return flight from Adelaide would cost $1900.00 AUS and a visa would be impossible to obtain.

Publisher Frederick Noronha of Goa 1556 tells me I’ll receive a copy of the book shortly.

But I feel sad I can’t be there with my talented, story-teller uncle.

My great grandfather Sylvestre D'Souza left his family in Goa to join the gold rush in western Canada.
My great grandfather Sylvestre D’Souza left his family in Goa to join the gold rush in western Canada. Aloysius’s book describes how Sylvestre remained in Canada for many years, leaving his wife to care for their three children Anju (Aloysius’s father), Bemvinda (my grandmother), and Gerry on her own following WW1.

Find a stairway to heaven

Staircase descending to Port Noarlunga beach in South Australia.

In South Australia, a stairway to heaven goes down, not up.

It starts from a road where you park your sand-carpeted hatchback. There’s a industrial-size tub of SPF50 sun lotion in the back with the towels. It’s got a pump so you can slap it on fast.

Faster than it takes to pull on your wetsuit. It’s thick neoprene rubber and if you’re lucky, you’ve got a buddy nearby who’ll pull the back zip for you. If she’s local, she’ll tell you how the surf looks before you even peer over the rail.

When you do, you see an expanse of blue with strips of white foam. They curl and break like slow-motion music. If you’re a surfer, that’s heaven.

I’m staying in South Australia with Jared Thomas, author of Calypso Summer and Songs That Sound Like Blood. He loves to write. And he loves to surf.

He tells me he’s going to show me how, sometime soon.

Author Jared Thomas in surf gear at Goolwa Beach, South Australia. (photo: ulrike.ca)
Author Jared Thomas at Goolwa Beach, South Australia. The stairway to heaven in the feature photo above is Port Noarlunga Beach.

Resist a shark-repelling surfboard wax

Chillax organic share-repellant surfboard wax in Australia.

Chillax is a wax that you dot on the top side of your surfboard. It’s designed to offend sharks. It’s organic.

According to Chillax’s Common Sense Surf Company Facebook page, Chillax Wax is “…heavily dosed with four organic essential oils and four strong spices.” I spoke to the inventor of the wax at the weekly Green Light Eco Market. He hinted that one of those essential spices is chili pepper.

There’s been some speculation on what the other ingredients might be.  One wag offered, “Chili peppers and other strong spices? Isn’t that what you’d tenderize a piece of meat with…?”

Me, I’m just learning to surf so rest assured I’ll stay in shallower, less-shark-infested waters.

And I can’t help but think the wax looks like a creamy, custardy, and spicy crème brûlée.

Chillax organic share-repellant surfboard wax in Australia.
Chillax organic shark-repellent surfboard wax looks tempting as crème brûlée. Does that make me a shark…?

The Chillax people hint that Version 2 of the wax will be even more repugnant to sharks:

“Chillax is an ongoing project of investigation and innovation; but with the help of consumers and supporters it will be made redundant by our second envisioned product – a shark repelling surf wax.

“This will be Chillax with a treated and olfactorily-tolerable Necromone, the scent of necrotic or rotting shark. This appalling stench makes sharks flee.”

More on Chillax surfboard wax:

Earn a library card

Letter of permission and library card from Onkaparinga Library in Australia.

Here’s a traveller’s tip if you stay in a place for a month or more: Get a library card.

It’s usually free. You can borrow guidebooks, novels, maps, and movies. You can pick up useful local knowledge like events calendars, newsletters, and volunteer opportunities.

And you can chat with friendly librarians like the lady at the Willunga branch of the Onkaparinga Public Library. She told me all I needed to earn my own library card was have my hosts Jared and Ruth write a letter. Ruth was kind enough to sign the letter I pushed in front of her this morning.

(Lucky for me neither Ruth nor the library staff noticed I spelled Onkaparinga incorrectly.)

The public library is a great place to pick up events calendars for the area you’re staying in.

Spring events calendar at the Onkaparinga Public Library in Australia.
Grab a Spring/Christmas events calendar at the Onkaparinga Public Library .

Attend a show at a Waldorf School

Willunga Waldorf School choir at end-of-year concert.

Tilly is in Class 8 at the Waldorf School here in Willunga. It’s an unusual school, where 13-year-olds discuss personal journeys, portrayals of women in advertising, and 9/11 conspiracy theories.

I was pleased to join her and her family to the school’s end-of-year concert. According to Wikipedia, a Waldorf education’s “…overarching goal is to develop free, morally responsible, and integrated individuals equipped with a high degree of social competence.”

It also includes a high degree of musical competence. The event showcased everything from percussion poles to xylophones to classic guitar. A piece by the Senior Band, Kaze no Toorimichi, felt transcendent.

During the break I wandered the school grounds and got a sense of the Willunga Waldorf School’s  radical building and grounds design.

Classroom building from Waldorf School in Willunga, Australia.
Classroom building from Waldorf School in Willunga, Australia. (Source: http://adzewillungawaldorf.weebly.com/)

From what I’ve seen so far, and having spent some time with Tilly over the last couple of weeks, I’m impressed—and just a bit jealous.

I wonder how my generation would have turned out if we could have received this kind of creative education?

 

Sleep in a swag

Swag bedroll with a sleeping bag inside, inside a tent in Wirrina, Australia.

The temperature went down to 8 degrees Celsius for my first night of camping in Australia at Wirrina Cove Holiday Park, south of Adelaide.

Luckily, I got to sleep inside a real live swag.

A swag is a canvas bedroll. It’s heavy and waxed and includes both a zip-over mosquito net and a cover. Ropes at either end allow you to tie it to a tree, or like a bivouac sack or camping hammock.

Or you could make like a jolly swagman and pitch it under the shade of a coolibah tree.

Sleep inside a swag.

Grill a Postie

Letter carrier on a 110cc Honda "Postie" motorbike in Willunga, Australia.

I want to ride a motorcycle in South Australia.

The roads wind beautifully along picture-postcard coastlines, through vineyards, and between mountain ranges—how could I not?

The trouble is, I need a bike. It’s got to be small, light, ready to carry gear, and less than $2000 AUS.

A few people have suggested a Postie bike. Similar to my vintage-style Symba Honda Cub, the Australian Post’s delivery vehicle of choice is small (just 110cc) motorcycle that is nimble, easy to operate, and tough as all get out.

Today I caught sight of a Postie zipping in and out of drive ways on his specially-equipped Honda Super Cub CT110. I literally waved him down and then fairly grilled him on the particulars of his bike.

He told me Australian Post puts the bikes to auction when they get near the 30,000-kilometre mark. He suggested I look up the Postie  bikes at Pickles Auctions and maybe Gumtree (similar to craigslist).

There were lots to choose from. One fellow is even selling a Postie bike equipped with travel bags for $2,250 AUS. The price seems a bit steep for a 110cc bike, but oh-what-fun it could be to ride.

I’ll have to grill up a toasty and give this some thought.

Meet a Postie and ask him about his motorcycle.

Eat kangaroo

Bag of "Gourmet Game" frozen kangaroo meat on an Australian food counter.

I’m staying with Jared and Ruth and their girls Tilly and Delilah. They’re a modern family who try to live consciously.

That includes food. One member of the family is gluten-free, another dairy-free, and another meat-free, depending on the day of the week.

Tonight’s meal is a fusion affair: Italian-style spaghetti bolognese with ground, organic, locally-sourced kangaroo substituting for beef.

According to local company macromeats.com, kangaroo meat is:

“…one of the most sustainable, lean and delicious meats that Australia produces. Kangaroo is a 100% natural lean meat that is sustainably and ethically sourced from the open ranges of Australia. Kangaroos are free-ranging animals, the range over extensive pastoral areas of Australia, graze on natural vegetation and are harvested in their own environment…”

Eat kangaroo.

Order a long black

Cup and saucer of coffee on a cafe table at The Farm in South Willunga, Australia.

I just want a plain cup of coffee. But I discover that I must decide between a flat white and a long black.

I use Google to look up the Australian version of an ‘Americano misto’ and see that a long black is an approximate equivalent, just add milk.

Since I already know how to speak English, I use this language expertise to order “A long black with milk, please.” It seems to work.

√ Order a long black.

This long black is in a garden setting at The Farm, in South Willunga. It’s a cafe, winery, cellar door, olive grove, vineyard, and bed-and-breakfast accommodation.

Refuse pie as refuse

Garbage can at railway station says "No pies" in Lindfield, Australia.

Pie is trash, according to a garbage can at North Sydney’s Lindfield railway station.

It is foul and in need of disposing along with plastic bags, yogurt containers. and—diapers.

I dispute that. Pie is a delectable, flaky pastry filled with fruits or savoury fillings. It is delightful warm and with a cup of good coffee.

Pie is not akin to dirty nappies, City of Sydney train system.

Pie is not trash.

Question the wisdom of a garbage can.

Find love at Bondi Junction

1973 B&W photo of Bondi Junction train station ticket turnstiles in Sydney, Austraila.

I was twelve years old when Peter Foldy’s 1973 song Bondi Junction played on my white plastic radio in my pink-and-lavender bedroom in Guelph, Ontario.

The sweet-voiced song told the tale of a young man who met his first true love at a mysterious place called “Bondi Junction.”

I eventually discovered that Bondi Junction is a real place in faraway Australia. I wondered if I would ever go there.

I did. It’s a transit station east of Sydney. It’s a great place to find a direct bus to Bondi Beach. But, like poor Peter, it was not the place to find love.

The song did well for Peter, though. It was a Canadian’s break-out hit single nominated for several awards. He might have been influenced by three brothers he met when he was still in Australia—the brother Gibb. They’d go on to become the Bee Gees. He’d go on to direct a film that is rumoured to inspire the film American Pie.

√ Catch a bus at Bondi Junction.

χ  Find love at Bondi Junction.

NEW BLOG: Cycling France’s Canal des Deux Mers

Ulrike's bicycle on a dirt path next to the Canal du Midi, France.

Go to Cycling France’s Canal des Deux Mers

Hey hi! Check out my newest stories—a bike adventure along a historic canal that runs 500 kilometres across the south of France. The canal connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. It’s called Le Canal des Deux Mers—the canal of two seas.

I solo cycle-camped the Canal de Garonne, the Canal du Midi, a section of Mediterranean coastline including the Carmargue, and a bit of the Rhône River.

I drank wine, ate cassoulet, mingled with riverrains, joined some pagans, and slept with four Frenchmen on their canal boat—it’s a story.

To join the ride go to the Cycling France’s Canal des Deux Mers photo-travelogue. And if you’re keen, listen to a conversation about my journey on the Adventure Bike Touring Why I Bike podcast (45 minutes).

See you there!

Ulrike