Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Motorcycling in Australia - pt 6 Back to Bright, last days

Echuca. A small town formally an important port on the mighty Murray river with paddle steamers offering the many tourists leisurely trips. An abundance of cafes and specialty boutique style stores, a very popular spot for travellers.

However having visited previously and my desire to discover places new sent my riding north across the river back into NSW and beyond.

Click map for enlargement.

So on my last leg of my journey and trying to deny the fact that shortly the bike must be returned and work awaited back across the ditch, I needed to get back into the outback as much as possible.

North of Echuca is Deniliquin, the Ute capital of the world. Alot of farming stations in this area that support the need and desire to own a Ute.

North of Deniliquin the road became straight again.
The landscape completely and totally flat... and treeless.
Almost half way to Hay the next town, stood a lone tree, or the dead trunk that still managed to stand. As I approached a huge wedge tail eagle flew from the nest, lifting its huge 1 metre tall body into the air to circle high above until I left the area.

Once arriving at Hay, another smallish town, I continued north to a derelict pub 40km out of town. This pub is completely in the middle of a huge unpopulated flat expanse of silence. Apparently it has been bought and the new owner plans to restore and open again. I am thinking a trip back here in a couple of years is needed, to have a drink at the pub.

Half way back to Hay I stopped to enjoy the sunset. As I was a couple of hours too early I sat and became completely immersed in the fantastic environment surrounding me. The huge space is something that soothes and mesmerises me. The quiet, so huge it can almost be felt, only broken by a Skylark singing from some lofty place in the big sky, or the frogs chirping from the recently filled pond, or the clicking grasshoppers and other insects in the grass world. Time seemed to be still and I felt as one with the nature and world around me. How I wished to sleep there for the night and let my spirit feel the night on these huge flat plains.
Sunset came gently and creeping in slowly swallowing the bright light of the day leaving the plains bathed in the golden light of dusk.
The fragile sounds of the day quietening to a almost deafening silence until some hidden evening sounds emerged.
The sun disappearing over the flattest of land, leaving me with extreme emotions from total joy to sadness.
So hard it was to return to human habitation that night.

The following day I headed east across the flat plains. Gradually I noticed the landscape changing. Soon I was in gently rolling hill country with farms and forest.

The beginning of the great dividing range, the mountain country of Australia.

A quick stop at Wagga Wagga, a much too big town for me and then through to Tumut.

Tumut, familiar to me from a previous visit, is part of the hydro electricity production scheme in the mountains. The lakes beautiful, though very low at the present.

Up from Tumut onto the high plains.
Through the alpine areas of Australias highest mountains the road at 1250 metres above sea level and very gusty wind.
Past Mt Kosciuszko and Jindabyne ski area. Wonderful twisty roads, alot of fun after the thousands of straight kilometres behind me.
This area familiar to me and so wonderful to be here again.
Once over the high plains the road descends in lovely switchback corners and winding curves emerging in the rolling hill country where I crossed the border back into Victoria. Stayed a night at Corryong, famous for Man From Snowy River connections.

Waking the next morning, excited with anticipation of returning to Bright, the small town in which I lived and taught in 2002. Fighting the urge to take the quickest route, I headed out onto a previously untraveled gravel road over the mountains.

A wonderful ride up through deliciously scented eucalyptus forest, teeming with bird life.
Good quality gravel road that meandered up into the mountains.
Gradually climbing up higher into the mist and cloud. Temperatures here suddenly lower and actually needing extra clothes under my jacket, a huge difference from a few days ago.

From the top I was able to see Victoria's highest mountain, Mt Bogong, across valleys to the south.

Descending into the valley brought sadness as the evidence of the recent forest fires became apparent. Burnt stark trees standing sadly, bare skeletons on the hillside. I slowly passed through this burnt landscape, the scent of burnt charred embers still lingering in the still morning air.
Stopping to attend to a tear, I was to discover something wonderful.
On closer inspection, new growth was to be seen. leaves starting to sprout directly from the trunks. I was to learn later that this forest was burnt a year ago. Within a year new leaves sprout. The following year the leaves drop and new branches sprout and grow. The tree survives the fire to grow again.

Further on, Dinner Plain high plains and near Mt Hotham, again my heart is touched as I see this very familiar landscaped scarred from the recent fires. Since living here, two huge fires have torn through, in 2003 just after I left and again in 2006.

How long will it take to completely recover? From this devastating fire comes life, many of the trees rely upon the heat of the flames to open seed pods.
However all the wee animals must have suffered terribly.
Up on Dinner Plain some of the areas were missed by the flames. This area once farmed by cattlemen droving cattle up here during the warm months and taking them to lower pastures when the snow comes. Many wonderful little cattleman's hut remain, used now by hikers. A very beautiful warm and sunny place.

Riding down to the valley from Mt Hotham my heart racing as the kilometres were covered.... feelings of coming home overtaking me.

Dropping into the valley and into the little village of Harriettville, all familiar and welcoming.
A short ride along the valley floor, forest covered ridges running alongside. Afew horses and cattle, a salmon farm, fruit and nut orchards. lavender farm, all bringing many memories of cycling and horse riding here.
Approaching Bright the years of being absent brings recognition of new homes built and development.

So setting up camp still feeling emotional about being here, and I hear a voice not heard for 5 or so years. I discovered, camped nearby a hang gliding friend from England, here for the summer flying. Bright being one of the best places for this activity.

So catching up with another hang gliding pilot, they decided to fly. I accompanying them to the launch site and drove the vehicle back down, stopping often to feast on the best blackberries ever.

So after the flying John suggested we take the motorcycles for a ride up the tracks through the forest. Up to a lookout over the town. A bit much of a challenge for me but great fun.

Mt Buffalo in the background, another wonderful hiking area and launch site.

From Apex lookout a wonderful view of this lovely little town, Bright, surrounded with wilderness.

So with a visit to the school and the warmest welcome imaginable by staff and my previous students, it was very hard to leave this little haven.
Remembering the leaving day 5 years ago, I had the feeling I would return, and that feeling prevails. When the time is right I will be in Bright!

Until that time it was a bit of a dreary ride across the state to return the

motorcycle. Caught in rain and high wind on the final 2days I was almost ready to hand over my trusty friend Bluey. So many beautiful places that touched my very soul. Generous friendly people that restored my faith in humanity some. So many challenges and unexpected experiences that I was able to overcome and adapt to. So much achieved that I dreamed about and more that I did not expect. So much personal growth, believing in myself knowing I can have adventures alone and am accepted by others in unfamiliar environs. So much enjoyment, every day every moment I absolutely loved. Even those frightening times riding in the sand and feeling out of control. Such fabulous memories and images. Yet of course a sadness for ending my days of freedom and adventure.

So now 3 months back and well and truly into my wet, windy, cold Wellington life.
However I am starting to dream again, where to next...............................