American Adventures

American Adventurist Down Under

A seven day solo motorcycle adventure touring Australia’s Grampians National Park, Great Ocean Road, and Blue Mountains National Park with resources and advice on what to bring, what not to bring, and suggestions for what to do when you get there.

Day 1: Arrival and Picking Up the Bike

I had reserved a BMW R1200GS with BikeRoundOz since I currently own and ride the same bike. I wouldn’t be dealing with becoming familiar with it or how it handles while at the same time getting learning to ride on the left. What I didn’t know was that they had set me up with a Rallye. This is a sweet bike.

BikeRoundOz
BMW R1200GS Rallye

One reason why I brought a JetBoil was that I knew Anaconda in Melton had the fuel. I would have to leave the fuel behind when I flew home, but the stove itself would be free of fuel residue and I could bring it back. I spent some time in the hotel checking everything again before repacking it on the bike.

The gear
MSR, JetBoil,Hennessy, and BMW Motorrad gear

After the bike was packed I needed to pick up the few things I could not bring with me. Isobutane fuel for my JetBoil, etc.. After that I’d head back to the hotel. Get something to eat. The next day I hit the road early.

Anaconda is a relatively small store and I wasn’t expecting the gold mine I found inside. A far cry from the average sporting goods store back home in the states.

Anaconda Watergardens
Dometic. Dometic everywhere!

Day 2 & 3: Grampians National Park

Finally! After months of planning and waiting, after endless mundane logistical details, I’m on the open road in search of Adventure in Australia!

This was the first area that I set out to explore. Dirt roads in every direction beckoned me and tempted me to explore further. I did some exploring, but I had to remind myself that I was there riding solo, that even though I did have a Spot 3 satellite GPS messenger with me that I wasn’t invulnerable. Alone in a foreign country it’s always wise to use the KISS principle and stick to your plan as much as possible.

I camped at Smiths Mill Campground in Grampians National Park. Very close to the MacKenzie Falls which requires a reservation. Plenty of trees for the hammock and providing shade. There’s even a bush shower.

Habits and Grampians National Park
Something wrong? Yes. I'm on the right (wrong) side of the road.
Grampians National Park
Mount William Access Road Grampians National Park, Victoria Australia
Boroka Lookout Grampians National Park
Boroka Lookout Grampians National Park, Victoria, Australia

The second day was a hike down to the base of MacKenzie Falls is about 1.6 miles (2.6 km) round trip. It’s an in and out trail with narrow steps that will allow only one person to pass at a time in either direction. The total descent is approximately 270 feet. After my day hike it was time for packing up and heading out.

MacKenzie Falls Grampians National Park
MacKenzie Falls Grampians National Park, Victoria, Australia
Grampians National Park Mount William
Grampians National Park Mount William, Victoria, Australia

On my way out of Grampians National Park I encountered an Emu wandering down the middle of the road. One piece of advice given to me was avoid traveling at night because Kangaroos and these guys like to hang out on the road and can ruin your night.

You’ll also notice the black fire scars on almost all the tree trunks here. Late evening on 19 January 2006 a lightning strike on Mount Lubra (later renamed to Mount Warrinaburb) started a bush fire. By the time it was extinguished it had burned for approximately two weeks and covered approximately 130,000 hectares of land.

Day 4: The Great Ocean Road, Rain, and a Malfunction

Of the two days I encountered rain I would compare both to the spin/rinse cycle of a washing machine. It would pour. Then the sun would come out and I would quickly dry off. Then it would pour again. Rinse. Repeat. Thankfully, I did get a chance to visit the ocean again later and in much better weather.

I camped at Parker Hill in Great Otway National Park. This is an awesome campsite overlooking the beach and reservations are required. Given the inclement weather I had arrived cold and wet and it took me a while to dry out. Thankfully, the hill is protected by substantial tree cover that helps shield against ocean winds.

Apollo Bay Great Ocean Road
Apollo Bay Great Ocean Road
Great Ocean Road
Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road
Great Ocean Road
Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road, Victoria Australia
Great Ocean Road
Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road

Being Prepared

In my previous article Choosing the Right Tent The First Time, I stressed anticipating dramatic changes in the weather and this is why. Seasons are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere so January and February are Melbourne’s hottest months with the interior seeing temps of 110° F. Given that I have limited carrying capacity on a motorcycle, I had contemplated bringing just the Klim mesh suit but that left me without rain protection so that thought was immediately dismissed. The BMW Rallye suit would be hotter and uncomfortable at times but I would have to deal. This decision paid off with the unseasonably cold and wet weather. After putting the rain liners into the jacket and pants I was warm again and drying out.

Day 5: A Pit Stop to Change Bikes then on to Wagga Wagga

Parker Hill camp the next day. The bike wasn’t liking the weather either. In the morning the bike’s throttle was sluggish and the check engine light came on. After breaking camp and packing I let the bike idle for a bit. A few miles later things were back to normal but the code wasn’t clearing. Nothing but guesses as to the cause. As I rode on I had an internal debate about the merits of heading back to Melton to swap out bikes and losing a day, or continuing on as-is with a check engine light on. The entire time the debate raged in my head I was heading back to Melton. I will miss the Loch Ard Gorge and the day I had planned to tour the coast.

The Melton Pit Stop

BikeRoundOz had me back on the road pretty quick. From rolling into the depot on the R1200GS Rallye, to moving panniers and everything over to an F800GS, to rolling out was only an hour and 30 minutes. The trip back to Melton itself had cost me most of the day. I’m quite familiar with marathon miles on a bike. 500-700 miles in a day is my typical ride in the states. I could make up the lost time if I hustled and that was my plan. I made reservations at the Prince of Wales Motor Inn over in Wagga Wagga New South Wales and hit the road. The weather had turned for the better and I was feeling good with the wheels turning and the miles stacking up behind me.

(At this point I also decided to swap the helmet camera to time lapse. The SD card was filling quickly. Battery drain for video was also an issue.)

F800GS
F800GS on the A41, Evans Plains New South Wales
A lot of miles ahead of me
A lot of miles ahead of me

I rolled into hotel’s parking lot at 9:40 pm with about a half gallon of fuel in the tank. I was on fumes as well. The proprietor had stashed the key to my room and told me where he hid it. There was even milk for tea. Every battery was in need of a full charge, and I was in need of a hot shower and sleep so I wasted no time.

F800GS
Prince of Wales Motor Inn

Day 6: Blue Mountains National Park

The small part of Grand Canyon track lays ahead of me. The Blue Mountains are a hiker’s paradise. The trails date back to 1825 and features one of the most extensive trail systems in Australia. What little exposure I give it here does not do it justice!

This night I stayed at Murphys Glen campground in Blue Mountains National Park. It’s a free primitive campground reachable only by 2 track or 4WD.

Evans Lookout Blue Mountains National Park
Blue Mountains National Park Grand Canyon Walking Track, Victoria, Australia
Evans Lookout Sundial Blue Mountains National Park
Blue Mountains National Park Grand Canyon Walking Track, Victoria, Australia
Govetts Leap lookout Blue Mountains National Park
Blue Mountains National Park Grand Canyon Walking Track, Victoria, Australia
Blue Mountains National Park
Blue Mountains National Park Grand Canyon Walking Track, Victoria, Australia
Govetts Leap lookout Blue Mountains National Park
Blue Mountains National Park Grand Canyon Walking Track, Victoria, Australia
Murphys Glen campground in Blue Mountains National Park.
Murphys Glen campground in Blue Mountains National Park.
Murphys Glen campground in Blue Mountains National Park.
Murphys Glen campground in Blue Mountains National Park.

Day 7: Wagga Wagga Again

Packing up at the Blue Mountain campsite, it was time to head back. When I get back in to Melton I will have covered 1764 miles, but first I had one more night. I decided to spend that night at the Prince of Wales Motor Inn again. Making sure I had a room when I rolled in late the first time was appreciated. I felt choosing to stay there again was a good way to show that appreciation. And perhaps showing up at a reasonable time too.

But I can’t say my motives were entirely altruistic. The first time I stayed there I noticed a brewery was right next door. When in Australia one must do as the Australians!

Prince of Wales Motor Inn
A celebratory conclusion at the Prince of Wales Motor Inn

Logistics Again

Back at Melton and BikeRoundOz it’s time to get back into street clothing and unpack the bike. Time to deal with the explosion of gear everywhere and then the repacking for the trip home. Cheers to BikeRoundOz for tolerating the use of your garage and office space for this. I also found out what happened to the Rallye. They had brought the bike to a dealer and had it serviced. After the code was cleared they couldn’t find anything wrong with the bike. Damn the luck.

Unpacking is fun!

An Epilogue to an Adventure

The first half of this adventure ends here. The second half of my trip was for the wedding of my Brother and his Fiancée. I’ll skip the wedding photos but there are parts that are relevant and would fit in well with any adventure tour of Australia.

Healesville Sanctuary

Formally known as the Sir Colin MacKenzie Sanctuary, it is located in Badger Creek, Victoria, Australia. About an hour’s drive east north east of Melbourne. Healesville Sanctuary specializes in native Australian animals. Keeper talks offer an opportunity to hear about the animals, their care, and the conservation work being done for various species in Australia.

Healesville Sanctuary
Healesville Sanctuary
Healesville Sanctuary
Healesville Sanctuary

Mount Martha Victoria, Australia

The town dates back to the 1840s and today it’s a vacationer’s beach town. If you are planning on following the Australian coastline on your Oz adventure it’s a good place to swap things up from camping and still put your toes in the sand and get your feet wet (far better than a cold rain storm wet too).

Mount Martha Victoria
Mount Martha Victoria, Australia
Foreshore Reserve
Foreshore Reserve Mount Martha Victoria, Australia
Foreshore Reserve
Foreshore Reserve Mount Martha Victoria, Australia

You really can’t expect me to travel all the way to Australia and not try a meat pie.

Australian Meat Pie

Highway Travel in Australia

There isn’t an extensive interstate highway system in Australia like you will find in the U.S. I found this refreshing. The temptation to get from point A to B the fastest possible way to maximize your time at those locations is really strong. As a result you can make your way across the entire United States on our interstate system isolated from the local communities stopping only at gas stations, hotels, motels, and dining on fast food and chain restaurants. Honestly, you miss a lot of the U.S. that way. An Adventure isn’t just full throttle point A to B. It’s about exploring the spaces in between as well, and Australia will force you down main street in the small towns.

Speeding

Don’t. There isn’t the leeway you will find here in the U.S., and there is no such thing as going 5 or 10 over the speed limit and being “ok”. The police are extremely rigorous when it comes to speeding, and speed cameras are used in cities and on the major highways. So keep to the limits and obey all traffic laws.

Stick to the speed limits
Stick to the speed limits

Dangerous Environments

You’ll hear the phrase “everything in Australia can kill you” before you go. Yes. It can happen but it’s rare. There are some simple things you can do to keep yourself out of trouble when in the wild. Most importantly if you see a sign warning you to avoid an area then don’t ignore it.

Wear appropriate boots that protect your ankles and toes from snakes when walking in the bush. Armored ADV boots are perfect. Snakes usually avoid being out in the open and are often hiding underneath bushes, stacks of leaves, or other ground debris.  Keep your body parts off, out, and away from these areas and always look before you sit anywhere. If you are not a meal snakes will prefer to leave an area and avoid the encounter. Announce your presence by walking heavily.

Grampians National Park
Smiths Mill Campground in Grampians National Park

Make it a habit to always keep mosquito net zipped up by closing it behind you as soon as you exit/enter. Don’t leave your gear outside your tent at night. Spiders or other critters may make a home out of them. If keeping your gear inside a tent isn’t an option then check the gear before putting it on or stowing it. Don’t place a hand inside or underneath. Flip and shake out your boots. Grab a camp chair by the back and flip it over to expose the underside before folding it up.

Grampians National Park
Smiths Mill Campground in Grampians National Park

Getting There

There is simply too much for me to cover every item and situation when traveling to Australia. What’s included here is the information that I needed for my trip, some general advice, and a list of basic resources to give you a head start for your Australian Adventure.

Getting There. Old School
Getting There. Old School

Traveling With Medication

You must declare medication on your Incoming Passenger Card (IPC). Don’t bring someone else’s medication. Ensure the medication remains in its original packaging with the dispensing label intact. All medications containing codeine will require you to bring the prescription from your Doctor. Just to be on the safe side it is advisable to have a letter or a prescription from your doctor or practitioner. You will need special permission to bring more than a 3 months’ supply of medicine into Australia.

Backpacks

This was my carry-on. Why not? Right? In it I had placed my spare (uninstalled) lithium batteries. Spare lithium batteries (both lithium metal and lithium ion/polymer) are prohibited in checked baggage. My personal hygiene kit. My Spot and Garmin GPS electronic devices. Contact your airline in advance. Ensure the backpack conforms to their carry-on size restrictions. I don’t recommend it but if checking your backpack then ask if it can be placed in a container or use heavy duty wrapping plastic to secure the straps to keep them from getting caught in the conveyor belts and to deter theft of opportunity. Also consider how you will accomplish this if checking your backpack on the return trip as well.

Camp Stoves

Camp Stoves must be free from fuel fumes emitting from the stove. Camping fuel, burning paste, etc. are prohibited for obvious reasons. These items must be obtained at a camp store after you arrive.

Insect Repellent

It’s a must-have. The liquid limits apply when carrying these in your carry-on bags so pack it in your checked baggage.

Australian Biosecurity

Australian biosecurity laws are very strict. This is to protect agriculture and unique wildlife from invasive species and diseases. Check with the Australia Department of Agriculture and Water Resources for what you need to declare. When in doubt just declare it. Also make note that you must declare on your Incoming Passenger Card (IPC) if you have visited a rural area or been in contact with, or near, farm animals in the past 30 days. Clean your tent spikes before you pack!

Food Items

I brought freeze dried camping food and declared it on my Incoming Passenger Card (IPC) and had no issues. I could have gone through customs faster though so just leave food items at home. Plan on stopping by a camping store like Anaconda and/or a market after you arrive to get fuel, insect repellent and camp food.

Camping equipment, including backpacks

To protect Australia’s livestock industries from foot-and-mouth disease and African swine fever the biosecurity officer will be inspecting items for soil and/or manure that is being carried with them. Thoroughly clean and dry your equipment before you travel to Australia. Don’t forget to clean your tent pegs.

Freshwater recreational and water sport equipment

Didymo (Didymosphenia geminata) is a cool, freshwater algae that forms thick mats which smother river beds. It is almost impossible to eradicate and takes just a single live cell to establish and spread. While not present in Australia, it has invaded rivers and lakes in Europe, Asia, North America and New Zealand. Special care is therefore required when bringing equipment into Australia that has been used in fresh water overseas. You must declare freshwater equipment on your Incoming Passenger Card (IPC). It must be thoroughly cleaned to remove any algal clumps, and be completely dried for inspection in Australia.

Saying my experience has wandered a bit is an understatement. Nuclear Reactor Operator, Librarian, Landscaper, Graphic Artist, Steelworker, and IT Professional. In the past I would say that I'm a jack-of-all-trades with an education in engineering yet some experiences defy what we think we know about ourselves. On a trip to Rustenburg South Africa I discovered something new about myself. That experience ignited a wanderlust that feeds the soul and each new experience and the desire for the next fuels it.

Dave

Adventurist
Founder
Senior Staff
Editor
#1
A seven day solo motorcycle adventure touring Australia’s Grampians National Park, Great Ocean Road, and Blue Mountains National Park with resources and advice on what to bring, what not to bring, and suggestions for what to do when you get there.

Day 1: Arrival and Picking Up the Bike
I had reserved a BMW R1200GS with BikeRoundOz since I currently own and ride the same bike. I wouldn’t be dealing with becoming familiar with it or how it handles while at the same time getting learning to ride on the left. What I didn’t know was that they had set me up with a Rallye. This is a sweet bike.
Continue reading...
 
Last edited by a moderator:
#6
What a wonderful adventure, @Greg! Thank you for taking us along to enjoy with you.

It has to be weird on a bike riding on the left side of the road. I mean, it has to be weird in general, but getting the lines right on a twisty road are more important on two wheels than four. In a butt-clincher, my intuition would be to take the "wrong" side of the road.
 

Greg

Adventurist
Senior Staff
#7
Nice report @Greg . You're making my ADV itch grow larger! I'm getting that much closer to making the leap to adventure on two wheels, on top of 4-wheel adventuring...
Thank you.

The thought of doing both at the same time has crossed my mind multiple times. Get something like a MX hauler for the Tacoma and use it as a base. I haven't though because when the weather is nice highway travel on the GS is great. It's like a Zen moment for me. I guess that's one reason why I can just get on and go 600, 700 miles in a day.

Of course there are the days where I'm hating life :lol
Weather Underground Map.jpg
 
Last edited:

Greg

Adventurist
Senior Staff
#8
What a wonderful adventure, @Greg! Thank you for taking us along to enjoy with you.

It has to be weird on a bike riding on the left side of the road. I mean, it has to be weird in general, but getting the lines right on a twisty road are more important on two wheels than four. In a butt-clincher, my intuition would be to take the "wrong" side of the road.
Thanks!

Unlike being in a car where your position and controls have changed the bike's were exactly the same. I didn't have that unfamiliarity to deal with at the same time and after about the second day it felt natural for the most part. There were maybe 3-4 times in curves where the perspective combined with oncoming traffic to make me think someone was in my lane. But then everything would quickly click and sort out that I was in the left lane and they were in the right. Luckily I didn't run into situations where I was tested in one of those moments.

Generally most drivers stayed in the travel lanes and rarely parked in the passing lanes and a campaign for motorcycle awareness made riding a lot more enjoyable.
 
#9
What a wonderful adventure, @Greg! Thank you for taking us along to enjoy with you.

It has to be weird on a bike riding on the left side of the road. I mean, it has to be weird in general, but getting the lines right on a twisty road are more important on two wheels than four. In a butt-clincher, my intuition would be to take the "wrong" side of the road.
What I found the hardest to get used to was simply crossing a street/intersection. You don’t realize how conditioned you are to look left first at the near lane and begin to proceed as you turn right to the far lane. Well, you better hope nobody is coming from the right because that is closer than you think.
 

Greg

Adventurist
Senior Staff
#10
What I found the hardest to get used to was simply crossing a street/intersection. You don’t realize how conditioned you are to look left first at the near lane and begin to proceed as you turn right to the far lane. Well, you better hope nobody is coming from the right because that is closer than you think.
Yeah. Even a mnemonic didn't help.
 

Greg

Adventurist
Senior Staff
#11
That mnemonic BTW

Cross(ing traffic) Left (turn)? Left, Right, Left.
Cross(ing traffic) Right (turn)? Right, Left, Right.