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Extreme Gizmologist
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After finishing up 15 days of work in Darwin, Australia, I flew back to Sydney on December 14 to start a motorcycle tour. My self-guided tour itinerary was for 7 days and was arranged by Mark at BikeRoundOz.com. The web site description of this tour is at Bike Round Oz - Self Guided tours from Sydney - 'Sydney to Sydney Extended'. BikeRoundOz made all my accommodation arrangements, reserved my motorcycle rental with BikeEscape Motorcycle Rental Australia, Sydney, motorrad mieten Australien, and provided itinerary details including maps and a 50-page customized itinerary information document with information on local history and sightseeing information.

Here's pdf files with maps of my complete itinerary. Basically the route runs from Sydney, west into the Blue Mountains, runs north thru the mountains and then east to the coastal resort of Byron Bay, and then south along the coast back to Sydney. Tour takes 5 days to get to Byron Bay and 2 days to return to Sydney.
http://www.kelleynet.us/images/oztour/australia-tour-southern-half.pdf
http://www.kelleynet.us/images/oztour/australia-tour-northern-half.pdf

On Friday, 14 September, I flew from Darwin to Sydney, leaving Darwin at about 0200 (scheduled departure was 0040) and arrived in Sydney abount 0730. I picked up all my luggage, spend about half an hour online checking email and sending some work requests to engineers back home. I had no idea if I would have any Internet access prior to my return to Sydney on Thursday, 20 September. I caught a taxi to BikeEscape's bike depot in the Annandale neighborhood of Sydney. I arrived just a few minutes after their 9 AM opening time and my rental motorcycle was outside waiting for me. By the time I took care of all the rental paperwork, stored my excess baggage inside, packed the bike, and got my gear either on or stored on the bike, it was about 10 AM before I actually stated to ride.

I rented a BMW R1200GS bike with a Zumo 550 GPS for the trip. I had intended to bring one of my own Zumo units, but Garmin wanted $320 for Australian maps and the Zumo rental added only $105 Australian dollars, (about USD $90) for the 7 days. I stashed a soft bag with 3 days of clothes in the rear case, some riding gear and extra face shields in the side bags, and strapped my computer case (my portable office) to the pillion seat. Here's views of my rental BMW.




I took a short ride through some back streets by the BikeEscape depot before I tackled riding down Parramatta Road, a really busy city route. The manager at BikeEscape was telling me of stories of out-of-country folks that had rented bikes from them and done some stupid things with them: driving on the right (wrong!) side of the road, running into curbs, handling turns and roundabouts wrong, etc. I wanted to acquaint myself with driving on the left side of the road and figure out how the BMW worked. The BMW was really easy to ride, but the riding position was really high and upright, different from what I was used to. Footpeg location was more like a sportbike and I wasn't at all used to it. Riding around the back streets was uneventful, except for a close encounter with someting that lots of Australian towns use. You often find these #@&!$! **** cast iron things embedded in the pavement between lanes at an intersection. The BMW fairings prevent you from seeing directly what's in front of you and I narrowly missed hitting one of these things by about 4 incles. I saw it at the last moment and was able to avoid it. Had I hit it, I certainly would have lost control and dropped the bike and given the BikeEscape manager yet another story to tell their customers.


Day 1 ride started by leaving Sydney, going west into the Blue Mountains via Parramatta Rd, the M4 motorway, and Rt 32 (Great Western Highway). First destination was the towns of Leura and Katoomba. Then my route continued onto Lithgow, and then turned east to the town of Lower Portland, just northeast of Windsor. Approximate distance for today is 280 km (173 miles).


About 100 kilometers later, I exited Rt 32 into Leura and rode around Leura and Katoomba. I found Cliff Drive in Leura which was recommended to me as an interesting road to ride on to see the Blue Mountains. By its name, this road was obviously at the meandering edge of a cliff overlooking a valley. My first really good view of what was to come was at a roadside pullover point named "Honeymoon Overlook", and even that view was fairly blocked by trees.
 

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Day 1 (continued): Sydney to Blue Mountains to Lower Portland

Proceeding on Cliff Road to Echo Point, I was afforded wonderful views of the Three Sisters rock formation, the Jamison Valley, and the Blue Mountains. I saw many signs that called this Australia's Grand Canyon and I immediate thought back to last August's ride with BTK forum members to the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon.















 

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Day 1 (continued): Sydney to Blue Mountains to Lower Portland

After leaving Katoomba, I drove again on Rt 32 north and west towards Blackheath and Lithgow. About 12 km later, I saw a sign for Evans Lookout. I drove a couple of km off the highway to a small park with an overlook and trails overlooking Grose Valley. I took about 45 minutes to hike a trail. This picture shows a scene that I would see over and over, blacked tree trunks that were evidence of brush fires. The size of the trees that had blackened bark gave a rought idea of how long ago the last fire was.


At Evans Lookout, I saw more awesome vistas. The rock cliffs were big enough to be seen 50-75 km away.




Leaving Evans Lookout Park, I saw this van in the parking lot and couldn't pass up taking a picture of it.


Getting back on the Great Western Highway, I worked my way west to Lithgow (pop. 19,750), rode through the downtown business district, and then rode on Chipley Road/Bells Line of Road/Kurrajong Road/Richmond Road to Windsor. Riding stoplight-to-stoplight in Windsor, I struck up a nice conversation with a sport bike rider.

Turning on the Zumo GPS was necessary to find connecting roads to my destination, a B&B in Lower Portland called Jerimuda Bed & Breakfast - Lower Portland Accommodation
 

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Thanks for sharing that. It looks like a ride worth taking someday.
 

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Day 2: Lower Portland to Cessnock via the Putty Road

Day 2's ride on Saturday 12/15 went from Lower Portland along the Putty Road thru Bulga towards Singleton, then on the Broke - Mount Thorley Road thru Broke, then on the Wollambi Road south to Wollambi, and then north and east to Cessnock. The Putty Road is a well-known motorcycle route, featuring lots of twisty sections, running along lots of mountain ridges and dropping down into valleys and back up to mountainside cuts. Approximate distance for today is 263 km (163 miles).



Most of the road doesn't have a lot of space to safely pull over and stop. I found one spot to pull over, take a picture of a sign, and see just how much the road dropped off to the valley below. This is the sign I've been waiting for:


Parked on the left side of the road, here's the view over the shoulder to the valley below and the view continuing down the road. At times, this road ran along the spine of a ridge with sharp dropoffs on either side.






Occasionally, the road broke out into valley floors where the straightaways gave me a chance to get the BMW up to higher speeds. Experienced sportbikers would easily hit 200-250 kph along this sort of stretch -- I felt good getting up to 100 kph.


Out in the middle of nowhere, I found this entrance to a monastery


Passing thru the Mount Thorley Operations region just south of Singleton, there were massive mining operations, presumedly coal and iron ore. I saw an 81 car train slowly make its way across a bridge and elevated right-of-way.


I'd see this sign quite often, as well as koala crossing signs.
 

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Day 2 (continued): Lower Portland to Cessnock via the Putty Road

This region of Australia, known as Hunter Valley, is home to literally hundreds of vineyards. Apparently the market for oranges and other fruit trees has largely been surrendered to overseas countries, and replaced with vineyards and fig and olive trees.




For most of my ride, both today and in following days in the mountains, traffic was almost nonexistent. On the section of the Putty Road I rode today, I was passed by 2 motorcycle groups, the first with 8 bikes of mixed makes and types, and the second a group of 4 sportbikes. On the Wollambi Road, there was no one else out on the road. Here's a view of the Wollambi Road that I followed for about 35 km.


Pasture land isn't restriced to flat pastures.


Once I got to Cessnock, I wanted to stop by the local Kawasaki dealer to see if they had any apparel featuring Australia. Unfortunately I drove by just after 12 noon and the dealership was closed. Australian businesses don't keep the sort of hours we're acustomed to in the US. During the week, stores usually close at 3:30 PM, 5 PM, or 6 PM. Saturday hours are limited or stores are closed and Sunday hours are often nonexistent. Thankfully grocery stores, pubs, and restaurants were open.




Here's a picture of the Criterion Hotel in Cessnock, a typical old-style hotel. Built in 1903, there is a pub, bottle store, and restaurant on the ground floor and rooms in the rest of the building. To check for room availability or make dining reservations, you just check in with one of the bartenders.


Cessnock, like many of the towns I passed through, had an art school. This building was erected in 1924.


In Cessnock, I stayed at a new Best Western motel, near lots of local pubs and restaurants. Like most places I stayed, this model had a free guest laundry which I took advantage of. The motel was part of the extensive facilities of the Cessnock Supporters Club Rugby Leagues Club RSL Hunter Valley Australia which included video poker, keno, off-track betting, dining, and a pub. Sure makes fundraising for your local sports club easy....

I thought I was doing well keeping up to the recommended speeds around corners on the Putty Road. Compared to sport bike riders, I'm slow as a snail. Here's some links to YouTube videos that other riders have taken on the Putty Road.
YouTube - ON BIKE VIDEO PUTTY ROAD
YouTube - Motorcycle road racing
YouTube - 250's on Putty Road Part 1
 

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Great pics. I soooo wanna go there someday.

Just what the hell are those metal thingy's between the lanes anyway?
Do they serve any purpose except to annoy?
 

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Day 3: Cessnock to Armidale via The Buckett's Way and Thunderbolt's Way

Day 3's itinerary was a ride from Cessnock, thru Stroud, Gloucester, Walcha, Uralia, and ending in Armidale. Todays ride included John Renshaw Drive, Buckett's Way, and Thunderbolt Way into Armidale. Today's distance is approximately 360 km (225 miles).


At a gas station, I saw this Toyota pickup. Many Aussie picups have the three-sided drop side pickup bed, but the owner of this pickup added offroad lights, dual exhaust stacks, brush guards, and an antenna. The diesel engine mudflaps on the front just cracked me up.


Here's some nice hacienda spreads








At this little country store where I stopped to buy gas, there was a Kawasaki and a Yamaha parked out front. The Yamaha was for sale, but there was no sign on the Kawi.






 

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Day 3 (continued): Cessnock to Armidale via The Buckett's Way and Thunderbolt's Way







I haven't included any cattle pictures yet, but I'm sure there must be more cattle than people in Australia. Cattle were everywhere.




Somewhere along the way I passed this neat park office, next to a train station.


One thing amazing to someone from the US is the number of tropical birds that fly around this part of Australia. This picure was taken at the B&B I stayed at the third night (Annie's Bed and Breakfast accommodation in Armidale, NSW, self-contained accommodation in Armidale, NSW). The white cockatoo and a pink Galah just landed in the back yard. Kookaburras, cockatoos, magpies, parrots, and myna birds fly around in great abundance.


A good photo reference on birds of Australia is Bird Photos :: Australian Bird Photography and Information Index
 

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Remarkable documentation Mkelly, thank you so much. The first pics look like the Grand Canyon, only with trees. Did you have a hard time focusing on staying on the left side of the road?

D
 
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