Saturday, 3 January 2015

Riding in to a new year!

I was keen to get started this morning but Rhonda had other ideas!

The temperature had dramatically dropped in Walcha. It's seems to be the coldest place in Australia. I'm not sure why as it's not at any great altitude. Personally I enjoyed the cool air and wrapping myself in blankets that night. In fact, I ended up staying two nights and was surprised to be given the second night for free. I was also invited for dinner with the family who owned the Walcha Motel. Andy (the husband) turned out to be a biker himself and was keen to hear my story over dinner. A lovely surprise and a welcome discount!

The morning was sunny but sharply cool and Rhonda had been sat in the rain overnight. The cool air
was doing me the world of good but Rhonda seems to have become accustomed to the heat and the battery just couldn't give enough to get us going. Luckily there was a burly man on hand and with a quick push and frantic shouts of "THANKS VERY MUCH" we were out of the courtyard and back on the road. I had a good feeling about today and the cool air was giving me energy. I actually used my heated grips for the first time since the Himalayas!

Andy had told me that there was a dirt track that led from Walcha all the way (give or take) to Gloucester, about 140km away. The directions were pretty vague but it turned out to be easy to find the start of the route.

The road was actually a forest track and ran through some stunning countryside. We had the place to ourselves, aside from a couple of large Kangaroos who joined me for a while! Why is it that roos insist on running in front of you? They seem to have a death wish. No matter which way they were travelling before, they turn and head straight in to the path of your front wheel! Luckily I have come to expect this and so it ended well for both me and the roo this time!

I think I missed another track and ended up on the tarmac again after about 40k but that too was a stunning ride.

As I stopped for a Cappuccino in Gloucester, I got talking to a local rider. I said I wanted more dirt and he pointed me in the direction of Upper Avon Road. A forestry track than ran straight through the mountains for about 80km. Of course I drank up and went for it!

What a great track! It seemed largely unused. I could see no signs of vehicles having come through recently although I'm sure they must have. There had also been a lot of rain and so I had my fair share of mud and water crossings but it was great fun. Annoyingly I dropped Rhonda at one point! I wasn't sure I was on the right track anymore and as I pulled the brake to stop and check my bearings, my front wheel hit a rock and threw me off. It was totally stupid and very slow speed.

Something was trying to stop me taking this route as 5 minutes later I came across a fallen tree and with no way around I had to try and find my way back to the road. I ended up doing a big U shape and coming out about 20KM down the road from where I started some 3 hours earlier! I didn't mind. I was in no rush and I had got my fix of off road for the day!

I am now sat in a motel room surrounded my trees that home hundreds of Fruit Bats or Flying Foxes! They might be noisy but I love their presence. I'm hoping they will all take off at the same time at dusk! That would be the perfect end to a great day!

Australia has been a great experience this last month. One of the wonderful things about travelling is that you actually see the cultures and faces changing as you travel down the road. From the covered heads in the deserts of Iran to the half naked surfers on the Sunshine Coast of Australia. It's totally amazing to watch it unfold before you and having ridden it on a 250cc motorbike it really doesn't seem that far anymore!

I often hear travellers say - having gone through Asia - that Westerners have forgotten how to be nice to each other. I have indeed been guilty of this myself. Although Asia has taught me a whole new level of hospitality, I am finding that Australia really does have it's fair share of kind and caring people and it would be wrong to wipe that out with such a generalised off the cuff remark.

Over the Christmas period and in to the New Year I have been welcomed in to people's homes without hesitation. It may be hard to share others space at times but these guys have welcomed me in to THEIR space and made me feel at home at a time that would normally be for family. They have put me up in their homes, lent me their vehicles and ridden after me when I have forgotten something (again!). There was of course the policeman who escorted me on to the right road and the motel owner who just gave me a free night! Travelling on a budget has been a blessing to me in a way as it allowed me the opportunity to make so many new friends and experience so much more than a hotel room!

Of course we cannot forget the couple who came to my rescue having discovered an extremely large Huntsman spider was hitching a ride on my bike! (see video diary)

The world is full of wonderful people!

My NYE was spent with Tex and Bundy (and friends). The biking duo who have become quite the celebrities in Australia. Bundy is a dog. A cattle dog to be precise. She is the most photographed dog in Australia and has had special permission to ride on the tank with Tex. They have covered 750,000 miles together and all in the name of charity! We had a great day and I felt honoured to have been invited to welcome in 2015 with such wonderful people. It was however, important to me to spend the first day of the year with just Rhonda and the open road. It was a perfect opportunity to reflect on my year and so I did as we road through the hills and forests of New South Wales.

My biggest lesson? Never eat Pizza in bed in Nepal! You may end up covered in ants at 2am!

Most of all I learnt that I LOVE riding the world!

I have been hosted by the rich, the poor and everything in between. I've stayed with Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Pastafarians (see last blog), Buddhists and Atheists. All have gone out of their way to make my time with them comfortable and enjoyable and I have learnt a lot from them all.

There  have been many firsts in 2014. My first granddaughter was born. My first sighting of a wild tiger and my first Orangutan hug!  My first published article. My first time drinking (and liking) coffee, my first HOT Christmas and my first time catching a wave! There are many more.

I have always been one for change. I like change.  Why wait for the NEXT new year!  There may only be one life but we can create as many chapters as we like (if we like). We can reinvent ourselves as many times as we like and I'm pretty sure we are never too old to start chasing those dreams.

The chapters in my life are as different as Iran and Australia. The lessons and the memories are priceless. I look forward to filling the next 40 years! They could go ANYWHERE and I like that!

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to making my 2014 a very special year indeed.

Happy New Year to my friends and family and an extra big hug to the friends who lost loved ones this year. I have been thinking of you.

May 2015 be your next great adventure.


  1. I'd forgotten how much I miss the traveling and free thinking with my diary. That was a lovely ten mins with a coffee and self absorption Steph.

  2. Terrific write up Steph.
    Lovely roundup of 2014, looking forward to more in 2015.
    BTW, that spider had my blood running cold.
    You're second vid "Roughty- toughty Biker" LOL

  3. HAPPY NEW YEAR Steph - we hope that your ongoing travels in 2015 bring you as much fun and adventures that you've had in 2014. Have enjoyed reading your blogs - keep them coming and keep safe. A.Pam &U.Glenn xx

  4. Hi, was not sure you were still in Australia. my friend in Perth said you had left for South America.Thought something had gone wrong and you had to leave. but no, your still enjoying the wild life there, lol. all this time following your blogs I have just realised there are video clips to view as well after you said to watch the Huntsman spider. what a muppet. going to find time now to previous journey to Sidney. xx

  5. I hope to follow your steps in the future, you are an inspiration. Thank you for sharing so much of your wonderful adventure. I look forward to meeting you in the future.

  6. Happy New Year Steph, I have been following from the start. Hope 2015 brings you many new adventures.