Sunday, January 10, 2016

Our Biggest Triumph Road Trip Ever

Every year, I try to do something different for Christmas. that way each Christmas holiday is memorable and they don't all just turn into a big blur. Last year I spent Chrissie with family in New Zealand. In 2015, I was invited to Christmas with a friend in Sydney. Having driven my Triumph to central Queensland and back during the year, it seemed up for a longer drive.

Part 1

I took three days to drive to Sydney, taking every scenic route along the way.

Mt Warning, on the Queensland - New South Wales border
On the first day I turned off the main highway and drove through the Tweed Valley and the My Warning volcanic crater. It was a slow drive, but much more enjoyable than baking on the Freeway. I stopped for the night in Grafton.

The next day, I continued south on the back roads, and rejoined the main highway at Coff's Harbour. The road south of Grafton passed through small towns, following the river and railway line south. I stopped for night 2 at Port Macquarie.

A slightly disturbing dog statue at Glenreagh, on the road between Grafton and Coffs Harbour.

Out to the coast again

Tacking Point Lighthouse

Pelicans at North Haven

On the final day of the drive to Sydney, I diverted through the Hunter Valley and the Wollombi Forest. The drive through Maitland was tedious, with heavy traffic, roundabouts everywhere, and hot! After the hard part, though, we were rewarded with a drive through the forest and a tiny town called Wollombi. Driving through the hot forest with the windows down meant that I could smell the cinnamon smell of hot eucalypts. It was about 39C by Wollombi, so I had to stop for an ice cream, and tried a few Hunter Valley wines as well.

Getting an ice cream in Wollombi, in the Hunter Valley north of Sydney

A shed older than my car!

Instead of crossing the Hawkesbury River on the Sydney to Newcastle Freeway (an easy drive, but boring), we crossed the river at Wiseman's Ferry. Parts of the Wiseman's Road were built by convicts in 1831, and prior to SH1, the ferry was the main way of reaching Sydney. So it seemed appropriate to bring my car over the old-fashioned way.

Wiseman's Ferry

Crossing the Hawkesbury River the old fashioned way.

And so to Christmas, with the attendant presents, food, drink, a swim in the local pool, coffee and Star Wars. 'Twas a good one.


Part 2

After Christmas I didn't want to head straight for home, and so once the food coma had worn off, we headed further south. First we visited Canberra, a city always in the news as it's Australia's capital, but not on the Aussie tourist's radar. I toured the art gallery, Parliament House, NASA's Tidbinbilla ground station and the Telstra Tower with its viewing decks.

Approaching Parliament House, Canberra

One of NASA's big dishes at Tidbinbilla

After Canberra, we headed back out to the coast (along with the rest of Canberra - there was a traffic jam when we reached the coast at Bateman's Bay!) and drove south through the seaside towns and bays of southern New South Wales. The coastal roads here led from one small settlement to the next, and the scenery was some of the nicest of the whole trip.

Eventually the road led into a vast forest southwest of the NSW town of Eden. Halfway through the forest, we crossed the border into the state of Victoria. That section of road was, frankly, boring. It was hot, and despite a lot of steep climbs, there weren't any lookouts to admire the surrounding hillscapes. We stopped for the last night of 2015 in Orbost, and unlike the NSW coastal towns, Orbost was quiet and peaceful. I slept through the start of 2016 - been there, done that.

New Year's Eve camping at Orbost, eastern Victoria

A seal playing beside the wharf at Marlo, eastern Victoria

After Orbost, I visited a friend in the nearby coastal town of Marlo, and then continued west. Eastern Gippsland didn't impress - it was all straight, flat and hot roads with no views of the coast. Southern and Western Gippsland, however, were much prettier, with windy roads and small towns. We took a diversion to Wilson's Promontory, the southern most point of the Australian continent.

Welshpool Jetty, southern Gippsland, Victoria. Ferries still leave from here to Flinders Island and Tasmania.

At Wilson's Promontory, the southernmost part of continental Australia

I don't camp at 'The Prom', as it was packed to bursting with campers from Melbourne. Instead, I pitched my tent 70km north in Foster. The next morning I drove north-west to Melbourne, and visited a friend who is similarly afflicted with Triumph-itis. We spent the rest of the day working on his GT6, and I got a few ideas for mine. In the evening we went to a 20/20 cricket game at the MCG - the ultimate Melbourne thing to do.

In Melbourne I stayed with Craig, another Triumph nut. And like last time I was in Melbourne, his GT6 was in pieces.

After Melbourne, it was all north once again. I spent two nights in the mountain resort of Bright, enjoying the local brewery quite a bit. After a two-day break, Gerald the Herald and I headed north through the mountains, taking every minor road we could find to avoid the Hume Highway. It was a good day's driving! We stopped at Yass, a typical inland NSW town.

The back roads between Bright and Yass

The next day, I decided to take a recently sealed tourist road north from Goulburn north. This road climbed up the Great Dividing Range and skirts Sydney to the west of the Blue Mountains. It eventually led to Oberon and Bathurst.

Bathurst is the home of Australia's greatest motor race, an annual 1000km event held on normally open roads. We did four laps of the circuit, sticking tho the rigidly-enforced 60km/h limit. Mind you, the change in elevation is enough to pop your ears, and parts were second-gear steep.

Bathurst race circuit.

It was another three days driving from Bathurst to get home.

The next day, the Herald had the first of only two mechanical problems in the whole 3100 mile / 4980km journey. The exhaust fell apart in the Bylong Valley near Muswellbrook, and was fixed by John Daniel of Muswellbrook Tyrepower. A big plug for them - John even offered me a new for the night and showed me his large car collection.

The exhaust headers, repaired in Muswellbrook

The next day, we continued north. At Tamworth, I visited a motorcycle museum, filled with tasty two-wheeled treats. One day....

The Tamworth Powerhouse Museum's motorbike collection.

I stopped that night at a tiny place called Nymboida. It was a warm, dry and moonless night, so I was able to dispense with the tent's outer layer, enjoy the starry sky, and listen to the stream ten metres from my tent. Possibly the best night of the whole trip!

The other mechanical problem Gerald had was at Byron Bay, only 170km from home. I found that the an air hose's clamp had worn through the radiator's bottom tank. We made it home to Brisbane by not tightening the radiator cap so that the cooling system wasn't pressurised, and stopping every 10  or 15 minutes to top up the coolant.

And so, after fourteen driving days and nearly 5000km, we made it home. That was my biggest ever road trip, and probably the Herald's as well.