After Christmas I had one week off until after New Years. I always wanted to try overnight trips with my bike, but never had a great opportunity. Since it’s a sports naked bike, it’s also not exactly suited for travelling — trying to carry any luggage can be a real hassle until everything fits and is properly secured. The seat is also not very comfortable and I rarely want to do more than 300km in one day.
Nevertheless I planned a three-day trip that would see me spend New Years Eve camping in the Grampians, ride in via Great Ocean Road and back via Ballarat and Brisbane Ranges. I love the Grampians, Halls Gap is one of my favourite places in Victoria, so I always enjoy my time there.
I tried to keep the daily distances to around 300km. To avoid getting lost I wired a USB port to my bike battery and got a handlebar mount for my phone, so I could use Google Maps while riding.
Day 1: Portarlington to Princetown (264km)
I left early in the morning, hoping to avoid most of the traffic. I rode via Barwon Heads and Torquay and stopped in Anglesea for my first fuel stop. I knew parts of the Great Ocean Road would still be closed, following the devastating bushfires on Christmas Day, but I still wanted to enjoy the rest of it that was open.
Riding through Anglesea and Fairhaven in the early morning is usually great, you can really smell the Ocean. In Lorne I had to leave the Great Ocean Road and take a detour into the hills, via Deans Marsh, Forrest and Skenes Creek, past many cockatoos, to Apollo Bay.
As usual Apollo Bay was packed with people so I only got petrol and left again. I had a quick break on the beach between Apollo Bay and Marengo instead.
The road from Apollo Bay to Princetown was fantastic to ride. Long, fast corners with little traffic. Very fluid corners, an absolute pleasure on the Streetfighter.
Around lunch time I was at Princetown Campground and set up my camp in a quiet corner before having a shower and then eating lunch at the pub just across. It was typical Australian country pub style food, where you pretty much have the choice between sugar, meat and deep-fried.
I went for a walk down to Gellibrand river inlet. There were plenty of campers on the alternative campground at the cricket field, but the one I stayed on looked way cleaner and more attractive. I took a few pictures of nearby kangaroos and walked on to check out the ocean beach.
The sandy track to the beach looked very familiar since I had walked there before on the Great Ocean Walk in 2011.
It was very hot and sunny that day, so I soon walked back to the campground in order to get out of the sun. I should have brought a hat.
I spent the rest of the day eating ice cream, sitting in the shade, photographing birds and chatting with two nice BMW GS riders from Melbourne, who were on their way back from a longer trip through the outback.
I’ve never been particularly interested in BMW bikes, but having pannier bags or boxes certainly makes packing up a lot easier compared to strapping luggage to the tail of the bike.
Just before sunset, I realised it might be a great experience to watch the sunset from the Twelve Apostles nearby, so I rode there on the bike. Despite the late hour the car park was almost full. Watching the sun set behind the ocean was beautiful and worth the ride. The only disappointment was the behaviour of some tourists, who would ignore any barriers, walk out through already trampled vegetation towards cliff edges with tripods and gear in order to capture a more beautiful photo or selfie than everyone else. Some had dogs with them despite not being permitted, and even drones were flying over my head.
As beautiful as the Twelve Apostles are, it’s quickly turning into one of my most hated destinations. Purely because every time I stop by I get to see the worst of the worst in tourist behaviour, and nobody seems to enforce any rules.
Day 2: Princetown to Borough Huts (260km)
Having been there the night before I happily skipped the Twelve Apostles and instead made a quick stop at Loch Ard Gorge before heading to Port Campbell.
I left the Great Ocean Road and rode towards Timboon for refuelling. It was still early morning but it was already clear this would become a very hot day, with forecast over 40 degrees. At the petrol station I already felt the need to buy a bottle of water and another one of orange juice, just to hydrate enough before riding on to Hamilton.
Between Princetown and Timboon the road had been great for motorcycling, but after Timboon it quickly turned into a boring, monotonous flat ride towards Hamilton, past farms, fields and paddocks. Bugs kept smashing against my helmet on the long straights, and in corners I couldn’t help noticing the fantastic grip my tyres had on the hot tarmac.
I only rode to Hamilton because I thought it would be a good spot to get petrol before heading into the Grampians. The range of my bike is rather limited so I tried to fill up as often as possible if I’m not sure where the next station for 95/98 octane fuel is going to be.
From Dunkeld towards Halls Gap was another section of road I enjoyed much. Very scenic, with fast and fluid corners cut into the forest. Mt Abrupt is one of my favourite spots to stop for a photo — hopefully one day I’ll have the time to do the walk to the summit.
When I arrived at Borough Huts campground just a few kilometres before Halls Gap, I couldn’t believe how hot it was. The sun was right above my camp and every move was exhausting, so it took some time to set up camp.
It was so hot I thought it might be better to just quickly set up camp and then go riding again, because at least on the bike it would be cool wind. I then rode up the road to Mt William and checked out a few scenic spots, but it would have been another 2km walking to the top on a steep track and I couldn’t imagine doing that in motorcycle gear.
I rode into Halls Gap to find something to eat, having skipped lunch on the way. I went to Basecamp, where I got the most delicious banana shake I have had in a long time. I also had a pizza prosciutto, a large orange juice and a bottle of water. Amazing how much fluids I needed to recover everything I had lost to sweating that day. My meal was fantastic and I decided to return for breakfast the following day.
On my way back to the camp I stopped at Brambuk Aboriginal centre. I wanted to walk some of the short walks closeby, hoping to see a few kangaroos or cockatoos, like on previous occasions. At day however, I felt so exhausted from the heat after only a few minutes, that I had to return.
Back at the campground it was still hot, but at least the sun had moved behind a couple of trees and it started to cool down a little. The good thing about this campground was, there were only flies but no mosquitoes like in Princetown.
While I tried to get my camp organised two large SUVs with Chinese tourists stopped at the campground. Up until then it was so quiet you could hear leaves drop from the trees, but as soon as they got out of their cars all you could hear was Chinese. They were talking and yelling so loud around the campground I couldn’t believe how people could be so ignorant of others. I hate to put everyone into the same basket, but these guys well and truly checked all stereotype boxes about Chinese tourists in Australia. Rude, ignorant and behaving as if they own the place.
When they brought out a small dog for the kids to play I had enough and walked over to lecture them about dogs in national parks. Of course they had no idea dogs were banned in parks in Australia. Why would you look up the rules before you visit a foreign country? Or why pay attention to signs at the campground entrance? Their excuse was that they only stopped for a quick break, but I insisted they remove the dog. I also reminded the smokers among them that it was a day of total fire ban, which they also didn’t know. Surely they would have just dropped their cigarette butts on the ground before heading off. This is what starts bushfires.
Anyway. Looking back over the two days so far, I actually really enjoyed riding the Streetfighter. I wasn’t sure if this ride would go without issues, because the bike has a few hiccups every now and then, but the longer I rode, the better it felt. It seems like the bike always runs smoothest on longer distance rides.
It was New Years Eve but my evening was as unspectacular as it could be: I was sleeping in my tent.
Day 3: Borough Huts to Portarlington (325km)
I had packed up my camp before most of the other campers had even woken up. Some had celebrated the new year until late at night.
Halls Gap looked almost deserted so early in the morning. I filled up petrol and then went to Basecamp for breakfast shortly after they opened. I ordered a delicious breakfast burger and a cup of tea before heading off back home.
My plan was to ride on some lesser known roads towards Ballarat for refuelling, then back to Geelong via Brisbane Ranges. I wasn’t sure which roads were good and which ones were not, I simply plotted the route with Google Maps and then dragged it onto some of the smaller roads to avoid major roads and motorways.
Generally this worked out well, only in one instance I suddenly found myself on a section of gravel road. Fortunately I could see on the map that the next major road was only around the corner.
In Ballarat I also found it useful to have the map in front of me, otherwise I would have gone lost in the crazy network of roundabouts.
This last day wasn’t as scenic as I hoped, but I guess the best motorcycling roads in Victoria are more to the East of Melbourne than to the West.
I arrived home early afternoon and for a first bike camping trip I think it was a great experience. The bike however was so dirty that for the first time since I bought it I had to hose it down with the garden hose. Up until then dry cleaning and polishing had always been enough.
More photos in the album New Years Eve in the Grampians.