To the Gong and back

The Bug - Kawasaki ZX9R

Time in lieu and public holidays are great things, especially when a weekend falls in between them.

The Australian Alps.
I've not heard a bad word about the roads up into the Alps. Up until this point in time, the furthest I'd been is up to Omeo via Bairnsdale.

I'd rate it as one of the best rides I've been on based on the road surface, grip, vision and corners.

If the rest of the Alpine Road was of the same quality I knew I was going to be in for some fantastic riding.

Good old google maps

The Route.
Starting from Melbourne I'd slab it to Ensay, then head up to Omeo, Mitta Mitta, Towong, through Mt Kosciusko, Jindabyne then to Cooma.

From there I'd either go north to Canberra and go coastal to Wollongong or inland and head into Wollongong through Macquarie Pass.

Road trip on the cheap.
As I was planning on doing this trip on a budget I decided I'd camp along the way at free camp spots I found using the WikiCamps app.

I don't eat a lot on long trips for some reason, I usually just snack on muesli bars, snakes and drink plenty of water and maybe grab a sandwich from a servo or local shop when I stop for fuel.

As for dinners I try to find a pub that offers camping out back or is near a campground, that way I can grab dinner and a cold beer at the end of the day.

I probably get by with a $20 counter meal for dinner and spend maybe another $10 through the day on coffee or snacks.

This doesn't include the beer tab.

Packing Light.
I've got camping on a bike down to a fine art now I've done it that many times and I found that hiking gear is best if you want to save space.

I fit all of the following into a 49L Ortlieb waterproof rack pack and a Gearsack Tank bag:

Vango Balde 2-person Hiking Tent
Roman Palm Visa Compact Sleeping Bag
Sea to Summit air mat
Helinox Chair
Pot/Stove Cook Set
DD 3mx3m tarp
Coffee, muesli bars, snacks, 2L water bottle
Phone charger, USB cords
Black Diamond Head Lamp
Waterproof pants
Waterproof motorcycle gloves
Spare clothes - socks, jocks, shorts, t-shirts and thermals
Towel, toothbrush/paste, deodorant, razor and shaving cream
Large knife
Fire starters

Day 1 - POETS day
Piss of early tomorrows Saturday was the go, I clocked out at 1 pm on the dot and made my way to the big green bug (my ZX9R), full of fuel and ready to roll.

It was Friday and a long weekend for some due to the Melbourne Cup, and by the looks of things, once I hit the freeway, everyone else had the same idea as me.

The traffic over the Westgate and through the tunnel was pretty average, with the temps still in the 30's I was getting quite hot moving at a slow pace.

Once I got out of the tunnel the gloves were off and it was a mad dash to the little town of Ensay, about 370kms from Melbourne or 40kms or so from Omeo.

I arrived at the only pub in town, the Little River Inn just before 6 pm.

Where I parked next to a ute, with two barking dogs and a Panigale 1199 in the back of it. I figured my bug was gonna be safe here for the night.

By now after riding for five hours in the heat, all I had on my mind was a cold beer, a decent meal and a patch of grass to set up my tent.

I managed to get a cold beer.

The pub had changed hands since I'd been there about a year ago, and they no longer allow camping. The rooms were also being renovated, so there was no accommodation available.

I had about two hours of light and a cold beer to finish to find another camp spot. An old bloke, with a long white beard, introduced himself as Peter, he overheard my conversation with the bar staff and told me about a rec reserve about 2 kms away, said I could camp there and they had toilets and showers available.

Perfect. We exchanged some small talk about my bike and where I was headed, as you do in small country towns. Everyone is up for a chat.

I thanked him, ordered a six-pack of beer and was on my way.

$20 for some brewery fresh Carlton Draught

The Rec Park.
The rec park was an old football ground, with a clubhouse and tennis courts. On the outside of the oval were lots of sheep and judging by the amount of sheep shit around the place the sheep were the gardeners.

I set about putting up my tent, had a shower, cracked open a tinny and sat back watching the sunset over hills.

It looked like it was just me and the sheep for company tonight.

Old Mate Pete.
The sun had long gone and I was about ready for bed when a car pulled into the rec ground.

At first, I couldn't see because of the headlights but it turned out to be the ute out the front of the pub with the Ducati.

"G'day Adam didn't see you there mate, too much green" he joked.
"Peter?" I asked
"Yeah mate, Do you mind if I roll my swag out over there" as he pointed to the clubhouse.
"Nah mate, go for it. There's no one else here but the sheep"

Footy clubhouse with showers and power and a toilet block in the  background

He pulls up to his digs and the dogs jump out barking, tales wagging
"shut-up rabbit" he cursed as he fumbled around in the back of the trailer

"Hey Adam, do you like single malt?"
"Whisky?" I replied
"Yeah, got some here if you'd like a drink"

And that was the start of something special.

Sitting under the clubhouse awning, on a wonky old picnic table. A full bottle of single malt whisky, two aluminium coffee cups and a camelback full of water are laid out on the table.

A headlamp for light.

"Apparently, adding a tipple of water to Whisky brings out the flavour" as Pete pinches the nozzle on the camelback.

He passes me the cup "cheers"

Pete is a real character.

He's got a long flowing white beard, unkempt grey hair, a strong country accent and a penchant for single malt and the whacky tobacky. Reckons it's good for his back.

Works in Broken Hill in the mines fixing things and lives in SA, travels everywhere with his two dogs and spends more time sleeping in his swag on the road so he can save to travel around and ride in Tassie.

At 61, he rides a 2015 Ducati Panigale 1199 which he bought new.

Mods: Termignoni exhaust, Marchesini Forged Aluminium rims, shorty levers and some crash protection.

For comfort - sheepskin seat cover, airhawk seat and a throttle lock.

All ready for the roads ahead. That exhaust sounds mint!

He just got back from 10 days of riding in Tassie, where he owns a small block of land that he uses as his campsite and somewhere for the dogs to roam while he's out riding.

We drank, talked about bikes and exchanged stories long into the night. Time seemed to have got away from us as the bottle ran dry and night would soon turn into the day, we called it quits and I stumble back to my tent.

Day Two - Those who drink whiskey with the owls at night, cannot soar with the Eagles the next day

This was game day, motorcycle nirvana. The Great Alpine road. Omeo, Mitta Mitta, Towong, through Mt Kosciusko, Jindabyne.

However, my plans for an early start to the day never happened.

The sun was above the mountains by the time I woke up, and I was feeling somewhat dusty from the night before.

Pete was still asleep in his swag. With just the empty bottle of whisky as a reminder on the table.

I set about making a coffee to try and kick some life back into me.

Good morning Ensay! A balmy 27c forecast for the day.

By the time I'd packed everything up, and showered, Pete finally started to stir.

And cough, and sputter.

It was about 10 am, and Peter had agreed to join me on the ride, as far as Mitta Mitta before doing a loop back and staying another night.

We eventually got around to unloading the Ducati, tied up the dogs and were finally underway by about 11 am.

Three hours behind schedule and about 600 kms to go to make it to my diggs in Bredbo.

The Roads.
The plan was to get to Omeo and fill up and then Pete could lead the way to Mitta Mitta as he'd done the loop a few times.

Prior to doing this ride, I'd done a google maps and seen a few blue squiggly lines on the route, Peter had told me the night before there are lots of signed 35km corners just linked together.

I didn't actually think much of it until we got out of Omeo.

The roads narrowed, the corners got tight and I had to fight the urge to take in the views so I wouldn't crash.

I had trouble keeping up with Pete, he could ride the shit out of that Panigale.

My poor bugs suspension just isn't up to the job for fast tight corners, especially if the road got bumpy.

I'd finally caught up with Pete at Anglers Rest, he was chilling by the side of the road having a smoke.

Perfect Camp spot by the river

I couldn't stop grinning.

After a short break, we headed off again and agreed to meet up at Lightning Creek.

It was pretty much more of the same, tight corners and lots of fun.

And zero traffic.

Mita bound!

From Lightning Creek through to Mitta Mitta things turned to shit.

As we went through the forest section there must have been one hell of a storm the night before. The amount of debris was incredible, branches, sticks, bark, leaves.

I almost lost the font twice running over branches mid-corner so I decided to pull my head in and nanny my way through to Mita.

From there we grabbed a pie and a drink, chatted to some others that rolled up for a while before saying goodbye and heading our separate ways.

Peter decided to go back another way while I checked my map for directions and to see how much time I had left.

Elliots Way
I ended up skipping Jindy and found my self down Elliots Way.

Turned out to be an awesome bit of road climbing down the valley and back up again.

I was a bit concerned at the start as I'd passed a few wallabies eating by the side of the road, then further down a dead horse. That's the last thing I'd want to run into.

But, I made my way through unscathed and again, with no traffic to hold me up.

I came out onto Link Rd then the Snowy Moutain Hwy which was just very fast corners with the road surface to match.

Near the Snowy Highway

I finally made it to the Bredbo Inn hotel. They had a band on that night and the place was going off.

The publican told me to set up camp anywhere I want out back, take a shower and enjoy the band.

So that's exactly what I did.

Day Three - A pie in the sky.

I was up early and feeling quite fresh as I had an early night. I packed up and took the quickest way to Robertson.

A few hours later I was there enjoying a pie and a coffee, checking out all the other bikes coming and going. Doing laps of mac pass.

Eventually, I rolled out after a good break and made my way down, I was stuck behind a couple of cars until I got my first break and then had an uninterrupted ride down to the bottom.

I can see why it's frequented by lots of bikes. But I couldn't believe the police presence. Worse than anywhere I've seen in Victoria.

Nom nom nom

Day Four - Numb bum
I'd planned to take two days to make the trip home as I thought I'd be tired by now and spend a night in Jingellic.

That wasn't the case, I just slabbed it down the Hume for 8 hours and rode home.


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