A Stranger’s Invitation

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The ride out of Nimbin through rolling green hills was still a little hazy. As we returned to the real world I began to notice Lea’s engine sounding subtly more rattly than usual. Eventually I checked the oil and my suspicions were confirmed. She was running low. We had lost the spare oil on the bumpy forest tracks days ago. (I am hoping one of the cross bike riders found it…) Lea’s engine is old so I use 20W50 mineral oil without any fancy modern engine additives. And that is hard to find. Petrol stations don’t stock it. So began the hunt for oil in each town we reached.

Eventually we found some and as I was topping up in the supermarket car park while Aidan replenished our supplies, a lady came up to us “good on ya!” and told us about the record breaking event of most women riders in one place about to happen. If it hadn’t cost $50 to sign up, I would have been in. She also mentioned that Steph Jeavons stayed with her s she traveled through Australia. She is a solo female biker riding all seven continents who set off from London shortly after us and has long overtaken us since.

That night we found a wickid little private place down a dirt track past some bee hives and with a view into a little rocky dip. Aidan cheffed up a yummy dinner and then we found a rock with a view and settled in with a shisha, which we’d brought over from India, and wrote our diaries till the stars came out.

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The next morning was a little nippy despite the glorious sunshine and somehow it just didn’t warm up. I pulled over to put on my fleece. Another biker checked if I was ok and then rode on with a wave. We have seen quite a few motorcycle travelers going this way and that. It seems that this form of travel, be it for the weekend or longer, is quite a normal concept in Australia. I rode on to find Aidan had waited for me beside some pretty funky dudes chilling outside a creative farmer’s gate.

We rode on and soon found ourselves in Ebor. Shivering and with numb hands I signaled we should pull into the upcoming rest area. Then I got the answer why it wasn’t getting warmer and why Lea ad been a little out of breath…. we were over 1000m above sea level. The rest area was gorgeous and we took in the views over the valley and the waterfall sipping the the Turkish coffee we had left in the thermos from breakfast and munching chocolate for energy, slowly thawing out.

Once we had thawed out, we set off again. The road dropped down a little and the temperatures rose. We found the town of Walcha. The guy I’d met in the cafe in Petersham, who had recommended that stunning road back from Marysville, where we’d been at the HUBB meeting, had found a great little cafe in Walcha where a motorcycle enthusiast was exhibiting a few things he’d collected.

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Entering town I had no idea where it was supposed to be. This being Good Friday, most places were closed. And the only one open was said cafe, or art gallery rather: Antipodean Tynker. It exceeded all expectations! In fact it is run by the lady, who makes excellent coffee and knows the making and history of every item in detail. The husband builds motorcycles from scratch.

For example there is a V16 using lawnmower engines. Apart from the three bikes (the forth was out to get it running properly) there are lots of furniture and decorative items made f motorcycle parts, steam punk stuff, paintings, art pieces, jewellery and even clothes fashion. I could have bought almost everything there it was so awesome! The lady had a bit of a no photos inside policy so check out their facebook page for yourself. Or even better, pop by! It’s well worth it.

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Having indulged in one of their yummie coffees, super stoked that we had made it before the 2pm closing time, we rode off only to pull over shortly after to have lunch of leftovers from last night. The landscape turned into parched yellow rolling hills, fenced off cow fields. That night we were not so lucky with a camping spot and ended up camping in full view of the road. No one seemed to mind though.

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The next day we set off early while the sun did it’s best to evaporate the morning dew.

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We were aiming for Gosford as we had to meet someone there the next morning at 9am. She had bought Aidan’s old camera and was meeting us to pick it up. The ride was nice but I was tired and zoned out for a lot of it, coming to with a shock. What was I doing daydreaming while riding a motorcycle!?! I had no idea of the road or landscape we’d just ridden! We pulled over. I needed to have a break and drink some water.

Just as we were about to set off again, a couple of guys on big BMW GS1150s caught us up for a chat. They had seen us ride by the pub they were at and had followed us, curious about the foreign number plates and the stories they might indicate. I was so tired, I almost said no. But then I remembered that I was being silly and I would regret it. So we took up their invitation to show us a little secret twisty, pretty back road into Gosford.

Sean turned off towards home as we reached town and John led us to the centre where we got out WikiCamps to see if there was a suitable campsite nearby. John had advice for each, mostly consisting of warnings that this being the Easter weekend, they would be a busy nightmare. A short phone call to the wife later, he invited us to stay at their house in Avoca Beach round the corner. Sweet!

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We arrived at a huge house up a steep hill with a pool, guest bedroom with its own bathroom. Wife Chris greeted us from the balcony above the giant garage and daughter India announced she’d finally found the perfect dress for the upcoming birthday party. We felt like fish miles out of water in our scruffy dirty clothes, greasy hair and days of roadside dirt pasted on our faces. Chris welcomed us in so naturally, telling us to make ourselves at home, we just stood there confused.

Luckily the awkwardness didn’t last long. Once showered we felt human again and we all hung out on the balcony, chatting away and sharing travel stories, son and daughter popping in and out as their social life demanded. As it turns out Chris and John live life to the full. They have traveled extensively in their youth and carried on with a side car and trailer once Lachlan (the son) was born. “First you travel everywhere. When you have the kids, you do what you can.”

No five star hotels, as their house suggests, but crazy third world adventures like public bus around the Himalayas, cockroach ridden beds and dragging the bike trailer up the hill by hand when it got stuck in mud. The awesome stories were endless. That explains why they so instinctively understood what we as travelers need (shower, laundry – which we ended up forgetting about – and leaving our perishables in the fridge for the night…) We only had horridly cheap wine to offer but they did not want anything in return. Just our company. Honestly and truly nothing else. “One day, when our grandchildren come your way on their travels, you can return the favour.” I hope we get the chance!

Lachlan appeared with a crate of beers and cheese and biscuits were laid out on the table. At some point Chris strolled off to the kitchen and whipped up some super yummie chicken wraps 🙂 Someone had called Sean and he came over with his partner Vanessa, bringing more cheese, black pudding sausage and drinks. A curious bird popped by and John fed it despite Chris’ protest. It was quite tame!

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Then we popped down to the Garage to inspect each others’ bikes and share tips and tricks of how to store things and fix things on the road. John showed us his vacuum-packed water pump and told a lucky story of how he had packed i only to show the guy who’d recommended the vacuum packing and then broke down having to swap it.

Back upstairs we polished off the sausage and shared stories of Chris’s Lady Diana obsession, John’s mustache, traveling with baby and side car, taking taxis round the Himalayas, India, Southeast Asia…  Eventually Sean and Vanessa left and the gaps between our yawns became shorter and shorter. So we called it a night and all retreated to bed.

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The next morning we were up early and I had plans to sneak into the garage and fetch the left over coffee in our thermos. But Chris was already up and in the kitchen in her red bath robe. She had the kettle on, “coffee or tea?” I sincerely hope they hadn’t got up so early for us on this Easter morning! We had a quick breakfast and hugged them good bye, no longer strangers but friends. John waved us off, as we braved the steep hill down back to the road from his garage and disappeared towards Gosford Sailing Club to hand over the camera.

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