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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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.

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.

Snorkel with sea stars

Ready to snorkel at Second Valley Beach, South Australia. (Photo: ulrike.ca)

Tilly, Delilah and myself learned to snorkel today, in different ways.

We were at Second Valley Beach in South Australia. The water was a bit cool but the air was still and the sun warm. Tilly and I donned wet-suits and floated in the buoyant, salty St. Vincent Gulf.

We sighted bright pink and orange sea stars.

I came back to the beach, eager to peel off my neoprene suit and sit on the soft sand. Five-year-old Delilah was patiently waiting there for one of us to come back.

Starfish

Delilah’s graduated to “Starfish” level in her swimming classes and I asked if she’d keep me company in the clear, sandy shallows. She was justifiably doubtful of the undertow at first but I held her hand and we waded in slowly.

In a little while her sister Tilly returned and asked Delilah if she’d like to try the snorkel mask.

Slowly the two of them made their way into deeper water and Tilly coaxed her to slip on the mask and then lower her face in the ocean. It was just in time for her dad to proudly witness the big moment. He had been snorkeling in the deeper blue of the cove.

Rocks at Second Valley Beach in South Australia.

Rocks at Second Valley Beach in South Australia.
Second Valley Beach used to have a tramway that connected fishing boat sheds to the access road.
Squid fishers at Second Valley Beach in South Australia. (photo: ulrike.ca)
Today fishers stand on the pier and pull up fresh squid and whiting fish.

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 .

Watch a flower undress

Agapanthus flowers and olvie trees in South Willunga, Australia.

“Is that an…onion?” I ask Ruth, beckoning to a bush in her backyard. It’s a huge growth of lily-like leaves but with incongruous, onion-like flower bulbs.

“No,” she says, “That’s Agapantha. I remember its name because it sounds like panther.”

Hers haven’t bloomed yet, but later that day I discover a border of Agapanthus guarding the olive grove at The Farm winery and café in South Willunga.

These lilies of the Nile are in varying states of undress, and I marvel at the beautiful shapes the flowers take as they throw off their “jackets.”

Agapanthus flowers in various stages of bloom near olive grove.
Agapanthus flowers in various stages of bloom near an olive grove at The Farm cafe and winery in South Willunga, Australia.

 

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.

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.